Ensign needs some good lawyers

ENSIGN NEEDS SOME GOOD LAWYERS…. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) isn’t having a good week. It’s going to get worse.

To briefly recap, Ensign’s sex scandal initially broke in June, and pointed to a controversy in which the conservative, “family values” senator carried on a lengthy extra-marital affair with an aide, who happened to be married to another aide. Ensign’s parents tried to pay off the mistress’ family.

This week, the New York Times reported that the Republican senator pushed political and corporate allies to give lobbying contracts to his mistress’ husband, Douglas Hampton. Despite laws prohibiting aides from lobbying for a year after leaving the Hill, Ensign and the aggrieved husband ignored the rule, and the senator used his office to cater to the needs of those who hired Hampton.

So, what happens next? More than just political humiliation.

The Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee are expected to conduct preliminary inquiries into whether Senator John Ensign violated federal law or ethics rules as part of an effort to conceal an affair with the wife of an aide, current and former officials said Friday. […]

The inquiries will most likely examine whether Mr. Ensign, a Nevada Republican, or Douglas Hampton, his one-time administrative assistant, broke the law after Mr. Hampton, immediately upon leaving his Congressional job last year, began to lobby Mr. Ensign’s office. Mr. Hampton, as a senior aide, was subject to a one-year lobbying ban, lawyers who specialize in ethics law said. […]

Mr. Ensign could be legally at risk if he knew that Mr. Hampton was violating the one-year ban, or if he actually directed him to do so, as Mr. Hampton has said, ethics lawyers said.

Law enforcement officials said the FBI would likely open a preliminary investigation soon, and should it escalate, the Justice Department probe would take precedence over the Senate Ethics Committee investigation, which began in June.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has called for Ensign’s resignation from the Senate, but none of the Republican’s colleagues have gone that far, at least not yet.

That said, Ensign isn’t exactly a popular guy on the Hill, either. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) wants to pretend the Nevada Republican doesn’t exist, and for now, no one in the chamber is coming to Ensign’s defense.

Update: Faiz Shakir reports that Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was asked on CNN this morning whether Ensign can “serve effectively” going forward. Kyl dodged the question.