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For some time now, it’s seemed that Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., was able to successfully weather the disclosure of his affair with a staffer and could continue his political career, albeit with his reputation tarnished and any hopes for higher office dashed for now. But this week, attention was back on the senator, and people are raising new questions about payments made to his mistress and her husband, a longtime friend. Now, a new revelation from Ensign’s lawyer is likely to open the floodgates.
In a statement released Thursday, Ensign attorney Paul Coggins said that the senator’s parents had given $96,000 to their son’s former staffer, Cindy Hampton, and her family. The full statement:
In April 2008, Senator John Ensign’s parents each made gifts to Doug Hampton, Cindy Hampton, and two of their children in the form of a check totaling $96,000. Each gift was limited to $12,000. The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts.
After the Senator told his parents about the affair, his parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others.
None of the gifts came from campaign or official funds nor were they related to any campaign or official duties. Senator Ensign has complied with all applicable laws and Senate ethics rules.
Even before this news broke, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, announced that it had asked the Justice Department to investigate an allegation that Ensign had paid $25,000 in severance to Cindy Hampton without reporting it.
That allegation came from an interview Doug Hampton gave to a Las Vegas reporter. In that interview, Hampton also said a group that includes Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., encouraged Ensign to pay millions of dollars to help the Hampton family pay off their mortgage and move to a new home away from him.
Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.More Alex Koppelman.