Ensign sex scandal worsens

ENSIGN SEX SCANDAL WORSENS…. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) doesn’t want to talk about his sex scandal, but that hasn’t stopped investigators from launching a probe. The controversy made the far-right senator look pretty bad before, but it appears the ongoing investigation is turning up even more damaging information.

Previously undisclosed e-mail messages turned over to the F.B.I. and Senate ethics investigators provide new evidence about Senator John Ensign’s efforts to steer lobbying work to the embittered husband of his former mistress and could deepen his legal and political troubles.

Mr. Ensign, Republican of Nevada, suggested that a Las Vegas development firm hire the husband, Douglas Hampton, after it had sought the senator’s help on several energy projects in 2008, according to e-mail messages and interviews with company executives.

The messages are the first written records from Mr. Ensign documenting his efforts to find clients for Mr. Hampton, a top aide and close friend, after the senator had an affair with his wife, Cynthia Hampton. They appear to undercut the senator’s assertion that he did not know the work might involve Congressional lobbying, which could violate a federal ban on such activities by staff members for a year after leaving government.

The e-mail messages also hint at what Mr. Ensign’s office now says was an effort by the Las Vegas firm, a small energy investment business called P2SA Equity, to improperly link Mr. Ensign’s possible assistance to a promised donation.

If you’re just joining us, Ensign’s humiliation came to public attention in June, when we learned the conservative, “family-values” lawmaker carried on a lengthy extra-marital affair with one of his aides, who happened to be married to another one of his aides. Ensign’s parents tried to pay off the mistress’ family.

The scandal grew far worse in October, when we learned that the Republican senator pushed his political and corporate allies to give lobbying contracts to his mistress’s husband. When Douglas and Cynthia Hampton left Ensign’s employ — because, you know, the senator was sleeping with Cynthia — Ensign allegedly took steps to help them make up the lost income, leaning on corporate associates to hire Douglas as a lobbyist. These new emails bolster the allegations.

There are laws prohibiting aides from lobbying for a year after leaving the Hill, but Ensign and the aggrieved husband seemed to ignore the rule, and the senator used his office to cater to the needs of those who hired his mistress’s spouse.

I’m well aware of the IOKIYAR rule, but I nevertheless have a hard time imagining how Ensign survives this scandal politically. Having sex with an aide, after running on a family-values platform, is merely humiliating. But the far-right Nevadan, as part of an apparent effort to clean up a personal scandal, seems to have broken a few laws — and left a paper trail to prove it.