Ensign scandal puts his career in jeopardy

ENSIGN SCANDAL PUTS HIS CAREER IN JEOPARDY…. Following up on Hilzoy’s overnight item, there are some additional details available that put Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) sex scandal in an even more embarrassing light.

We learned yesterday that Ensign, 51, turned to his mom and dad to pay his mistress and her family $96,000. It’s the circumstances that exacerbate the problem.

The money was disbursed in April 2008, in eight checks of $12,000 each, with two checks each for Cynthia Hampton, her husband and their two children, [Ensign’s lawyer] said.

He said the gifts complied with tax rules and did not come from official or campaign funds. “Senator Ensign has complied with all applicable laws and Senate ethics rules,” he said.

The disclosure comes a day after Douglas Hampton alleged that Ensign gave his wife a $25,000 severance payment. Hampton has portrayed Ensign as obsessive in pursuit of his wife, releasing a letter in which Ensign says he “used” Cynthia Hampton for “my own pleasure.”

Arguing that the individual, $12,000 “gifts” complied with the law carefully misses the point. Why did Ensign’s parents choose that specific amount? Perhaps because, as the NYT noted, “Under federal tax regulations, $12,000 is the most that a person can receive as a gift from any one person without having to declare or pay taxes on it.”

If you’re thinking the Ensigns wanted to evade disclosure and/or taxes in paying what seems to be hush money, we’re on the same page.

Ensign’s scandal was embarrassing enough before. After all, Ensign carried on an affair with one of his aides, who was married to another one of his aides, despite championing “family values,” lecturing others on the “sanctity of marriage,” and boasting of his membership in the Promise Keepers. Now we learn that Ensign, a grown man and a powerful U.S. senator, turned to his parents to help pay off his mistress.

The LA Times added that the latest revelations “caused even allies to question his continued effectiveness as a U.S. senator.”

Ensign may benefit from the Nevada Republican Party’s ongoing problems, which may preclude the GOP from calling for his ouster. The state’s governor, Jim Gibbons (R), for example, has his own sex scandal to deal with, and the state party has no obvious leaders who are positioned to step up in the event of an Ensign resignation. The state GOP, then, may prefer to give Ensign a pass, and wait for the humiliating story to die down.