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Grand jury subpoenas issued in John Ensign probe

Updated Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 12:18 p.m.

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John Ensign

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury reportedly has issued subpoenas in a probe of Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who has been under scrutiny for his efforts to find lobbying work for the husband of his former mistress.

According to one subpoena obtained by a Las Vegas television station, recipients were ordered to testify March 31 in Washington, D.C., and to turn over documents relating to the Republican senator.

TV station KLAS reported Thursday that the subpoenas went to six unnamed Las Vegas businesses. One of the subpoenas posted on the station's Web site blacks out the recipient's identity.

Ensign's affair and the legal problems it has engendered have derailed talk that he might make a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and forced him to resign his position as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

Asked about the subpoenas, Ensign's spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher, said, "Sen. Ensign is confident he has complied with all ethics rules and laws and will cooperate with any official inquiries."

The FBI and Senate Ethics Committee are investigating whether Ensign tried to limit political damage from an affair he had with the wife of one of his Senate aides by conspiring to help the aide find a new job as a lobbyist, which might have violated restrictions on lobbying by former congressional staff.

Federal criminal law prohibits congressional aides from lobbying their ex-bosses or office colleagues for one year after departing their Hill jobs.

Ensign acknowledged the relationship with Cynthia Hampton last June. In addition to Ensign's helping her husband, Doug Hampton, gain employment with a lobbying firm, Ensign's parents provided the Hamptons with a payment of $96,000 that they described as a gift.

The affair ended in 2008; Ensign is married.

Hampton told The New York Times last year that, in coordination with the senator and his staff, he played a significant role in pushing the Washington agendas of NV Energy, the largest power company in Nevada, and Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based discount airline. On Thursday, Allegiant Air declined to comment and a call to a spokesman for NV Energy was not immediately returned.

The subpoena posted on the TV station's Web site seeks documents relating to Ensign; former Ensign chief of staff John Lopez; the Hamptons; and Michael Slanker and his wife, Lindsey.

Michael Slanker was the former political director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee when Ensign was its chairman and Lindsey Slanker worked as the finance director there.

The subpoena also seeks records regarding November Inc., a political consulting firm belonging to Michael Slanker.

John Lopez, Ensign's former chief of staff, told the New York Times last year that when he raised concerns about contacts between Hampton and the senator's office, he was designated as an intermediary to ensure those contacts complied with the law.

Lopez acknowledged that Hampton tried to lobby him, but he said that was Hampton's problem. Robert Kelner, Lopez's attorney, declined to comment Thursday about whether Lopez has received a subpoena in the case.

Michael Slanker and officials at November Inc. did not immediately respond Thursday to messages seeking comment. Daniel Albregts, a Las Vegas lawyer representing the Hamptons, did not immediately respond to messages.

Associated Press Writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.

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