Ensign apologizes to colleagues | NevadaAppeal.com

Ensign apologizes to colleagues

LAURIE KELLMAN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Ensign apologized to his Republican Senate colleagues Tuesday after revealing last week that he had an affair with a campaign staffer and resigning from the GOP leadership.

“He spoke at our conference, apologized and indicated that he was going to do his job,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters.

Other Republicans said it appeared that colleagues accepted the Nevada Republican’s mea culpa, which was offered during a weekly closed-door caucus lunch. Ensign rose, offered an apology for any difficulty the sex scandal may have caused his colleagues. When he sat back down, several Republicans applauded, according to those present.

“He was apologetic and he was warmly received,” said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.

“He was obviously somber and very serious,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Ensign abruptly announced a week ago that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer who was then employed as one of Ensign’s top Senate aides. The couple, Cynthia and Doug Hampton, have confirmed through their lawyer that they are the couple involved.

Ensign said the affair lasted from December 2007 through August 2008. The senator’s conduct, Doug Hampton said in a letter, “led to our dismissal in April of 2008.”

Such a dismissal would have violated a Senate rule that bars employment discrimination, according to Melanie Sloan, executive director of citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. The group is expected to seek a Senate investigation of any severance payments to Hampton and whether her departure from Battle Born Political Action Committee and his campaign committee was voluntary.

Ensign’s office said he disclosed the affair after learning that Doug Hampton had approached a television station with the story. The senator’s office also said an attorney for the man had made “exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits.”

Ensign returned to the Senate Monday to a warm reception from colleagues of both parties, but has tried to stay out of public sight.