Ensign Said Aide Wanted 'To Be Closer To Family'
The source of all Ensign's troubles was his two-year affair with Cynthia Hampton, who was married to Doug Hampton, one of his top Senate aides. After Doug Hampton confronted Ensign about the affair in 2008, Ensign scrambled to find Hampton a lucrative consulting job in exchange for his silence.
Ensign's parents also gave $96,000 to Cynthia Hampton and her family as a "gift," though Doug Hampton later described it as severance.
According to the newly released documents, as Ensign called corporate executives asking them to employ Hampton, he gave all sorts of reasons why they should hire him — but never mentioned the affair. Hampton was "tired of commuting," Ensign said, and wanted "to be closer to family." He even called the man whose wife he slept with "a great guy."
'Pick Up The Fucking Phone'
Ensign's impassioned lobbying for Hampton struck some of the executives as odd, especially because it appeared to violate one-year ban on lobbying by any former Senate aides.
After one executive turned Ensign down, the new documents said he had a subordinate call to say he was "not happy" with the executive. The executive replied that Ensign should "pick up the fucking phone if he’s not happy with me." Ensign never called.
'This Is A Really Tough Case To Win'
The investigation into the allegations against Ensign, the New York Times observed, followed the Justice Department's failed prosecutions of Sens. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and John Edwards (D-NC). Some have speculated that the department declined to press charges against Ensign because it feared another high-profile defeat, and the new documents provide some new clues that it was at least a factor.
"This is a really tough case to win," one prosecutor said. Or as another put it: "The legal theory is possible with the right facts" but the facts that investigators had were "not enough."
Investigator Had An Ensign Connection
One of the Justice investigators had a previous connection to Ensign. Lanny Breuer, head of the department's criminal division during the Ensign probe, had formerly worked as a defense lawyer in the senator's camp before he took his new post in the department.
Breuer was initially recused from the Ensign investigation, according to the Times, but was later allowed to participate with some restrictions.
Senate Ethics Staff 'Perplexed' When Ensign Wasn't Prosecuted
In what the Times described as "a rare step," Ensign's Senate collages on the Ethics Committee recommended that the Justice Department consider pressing charges. When it didn't, according to the new documents, Senate staffers were "perplexed."
“We remain perplexed why the department has publicly declined to proceed in a case against the senator in favor of prosecuting two former staffers before the committee has had a chance to finish obtaining evidence,” the committee's chief of staff wrote in a 2011 letter, per the Review-Journal.