Ensign’s sex/corruption scandal worsens

ENSIGN’S SEX/CORRUPTION SCANDAL WORSENS…. Everyone, even shameless right-wing hypocrites, deserve the presumption of innocence. That said, Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, facing an ongoing FBI investigation, sure does look guilty.

Senator John Ensign sought financial backing for a troubled Nevada energy company in 2008, and at the same time he urged the company to hire his mistress’s husband, according to people involved in the matter.

At the request of the company, P2SA Equity, Mr. Ensign had two senior aides contact one of the nation’s largest oil pipeline businesses, Kinder Morgan, about forming a partnership, two executives associated with the project said.

Mr. Ensign’s dealings with P2SA are at the center of a federal criminal inquiry into his efforts to line up lobbying work for Doug Hampton, a former top aide whose wife had an affair with the senator.

Investigators appear to be looking into whether Mr. Ensign sought to ingratiate himself with P2SA so that he could ease Mr. Hampton out of his office in Washington. Former Capitol Hill staff members like Mr. Hampton are barred from lobbying for a year after leaving their jobs, and if Mr. Ensign knowingly helped him evade that restriction, he could face ethics or criminal charges.

Two years ago, Ensign attended a breakfast meeting with top executives at P2SA, and a related company, BioDiesel. The Republican senator, desperate to find a job for his mistress’s husband, urged the executives from both companies to hire Hampton as a lobbyist. At the same meeting, the executives said they were looking for money to build a new processing plant, and urged Ensign to reach out to a third company about arranging a financing agreement.

Ensign’s office denied last month that the senator had provided any assistance to P2SA. That now appears to be untrue — the senator’s office did as the executives asked and helped try to find a financing partnership for the company. At the same time, Ensign’s team continued to press the companies to hire the senator’s mistress’s husband.

One senior Ensign aide reportedly told BioDiesel officials, “If you want John Ensign to work with you, you have got to hire Doug Hampton.”

Let’s not forget the larger context. Douglas and Cynthia Hampton couldn’t work for Ensign anymore — because, you know, the senator was sleeping with Cynthia — so Ensign was apparently trying to help them make up the lost income. The allegations for months have been that Ensign leaned on corporate connections to hire Douglas as a lobbyist. Those allegations look more and more credible all the time.

Also note, there are laws prohibiting aides from lobbying for a year after leaving the Hill, but Ensign and the aggrieved husband seemed prepared to simply ignore the rule. For that matter, the senator used his office to cater to the needs of those who hired — or were even thinking about hiring — 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.

I know political reporters tend to care about these scandals only when a Democrat is involved, but we’re talking about a controversy featuring a sitting senator’s adulterous affair, plus alleged ethics violations, hush money, and official corruption. An ongoing FBI investigation appears to be heating up, and by some accounts, expanding.

Still waiting for that media frenzy to force Ensign to resign in disgrace.