Writing on the wall getting bigger for Ensign

WRITING ON THE WALL GETTING BIGGER FOR ENSIGN…. About a month ago, Politico ran on a piece on Republican Sen. John Ensign’s (Nev.) sex-ethics-corruption scandal, noting that “the persistent drip of information … has some colleagues and top Republican aides asking quietly whether he can serve effectively.”

The piece included plenty of quotes from GOP insiders on the Hill, but nearly all were from unnamed aides. Republican lawmakers conceded they found it difficult to work with the scandal-plagued Ensign, but would only acknowledge his problems “privately.”

It spells trouble for Ensign when GOP members start rebuking him on the record.

Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he was concerned about Ensign’s capacity to serve since revelations have emerged about the senator’s role in allegedly trying to secure a contract for a company while it was considering hiring a top former aide, with whose wife Ensign had cheated.

“The fact that we have a wounded junior senator, yeah, I think that is a cause for concern,” Heller said Wednesday…. Heller would not call for Ensign’s resignation, but expressed serious concern that the senator’s scandal could have a downballot effect on Republican candidates in Nevada, where the GOP is hoping to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for reelection this fall.

“Will it have impact up and down the ticket for Republicans this fall?” Heller said. “I think there is a potential of that happening.”

Heller’s remarks were followed by an op-ed today from two former Clark County GOP officials who urged “all true conservative Republican leaders and activists to speak out now for the resignation of Senator Ensign.”

I’ve largely given up trying to figure out why major news outlets aren’t taking this seriously. 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, and yet, no media frenzy.

And while that no doubt comes as a relief to Ensign, the media’s disinterest will only help so much if a growing number of Republicans start publicly calling him out.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.