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John Eric Ensign
Republican, Nevada (House 1995-1998; Senate 1998-present)
Update: January 19, 2010: The Justice Department and the FBI have begun what might be a preliminary crimination investigation into Ensign's affair. Senate Ethics Committee is already investigating.
A rising star in the Republican party, with possible eyes on the 2012 presidential race, Ensign acknowledged on June 16, 2009, that he had an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer from December 2008 through August 2008. It gets a little dicey because the former campaign staffer is married to one of ensign's former legislative aides.
Ensign resigned his leadership post as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, which is the fourth-ranking spot in the GOP leadership.
Ensign's term of office runs until 2012, and he said he is "committed to my service in the United States Senate." From a prepared statement, Ensign said he "deeply regret and am very sorry for my actions." His wife, Darlene, is standing by her man, although she wasn't present when Ensign read his statement to reporters.
In 1998, Ensign blasted Bill Clinton for that Monica Lewinsky thing. Clinton "sent taxpayer-paid staff out to lie for him, and that is a misuse of office," Ensign said at the time. The president has "no credibility left."
Ensign also called Larry Craig's little bathroom episode "embarrassing."
Ensign, who belongs to the conservative Christian ministry, Promise Keepers, said, "Last year I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life. If there was ever anything in my life I could take back, this would be it."
Update, July 10, 2009: Ensign's parents paid $96,000 in 2008 to Cynthia Hampton, his mistress, and to her family, according to Ensign's attorney. The gifts were given "out of concern for the well-belong of longtime family friends during a difficult time," according to Ensign's lawyer. Right. Doug Hampton, the husband of said mistress, alleged that Ensign gave his wife a $25,000 severance payment. Hampton also alleged that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), a close friend of Ensign's urged Ensign to end the affair and suggested financial compensation. Coburn said yes, he counseled his fellow senator to end the affair, but denied any suggestion of a financial deal. Stay tuned.
Update: October 1, 2009: In a long, detailed article, the New York Times gave us a bigger picture of the possible troubles of the Honorable Senator Ensign. It's not just an affair with his ex-aide's wife. It is now alleged that Ensign sought cushy lobbying contracts for his ex-aide, Doug Hampton. Several experts state that Ensign's behavior--of not severing business ties with his former aide--most likely violated ethics rules. Stay tuned.
Source: Paul Kane and Chris Cillizza, "Sen. Ensign Acknowledges an Extramarital Affair," Washington Post, June 17, 2009, A1. David Espo, "Ensign Quits Senate GOP Leadership Post," AP, June 17, 2009. Dan Eggen and Chris Cillizza, "Ensign's Parents Made Payments to Mistress, Her Family," Washington Post, July 10, 2009. Eric Lichtblau and Eric Lipton, "Senator's Aid After Affair Raises Flags Over Ethics," New York Times, October 1, 2009. Manu Raju and John Bresnahan, "FBI Gets Involved in Ensign Affair," Politico, January 19, 2010.