Ensign resigns from GOP leadership after affair | NevadaAppeal.com

Ensign resigns from GOP leadership after affair

DAVID ESPO
AP Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON – A former campaign aide to Sen. John Ensign confirmed her involvement Wednesday in an extramarital affair with the conservative Republican, lamented his decision to “air this very personal matter” and said she eventually would tell her side of the story.

An attorney for Cindy Hampton and her husband, Doug, issued a statement on their behalf as Ensign phoned in his resignation as a member of the Senate GOP leadership. The senator’s aides refused to return phone calls seeking additional details about a dalliance that pushed the 51-year-old Nevada lawmaker’s political career to the brink of disaster.

An Associated Press review of federal records showed Cynthia Hampton, 46, received a promotion and a pay raise around the time of the affair at one political entity controlled by Ensign and a pay raise at a second. Her husband was an employee in Ensign’s Senate office.

Ensign told a hastily arranged news briefing on Tuesday he had an extramarital affair with a woman on his campaign payroll, and it lasted several months, ending last August.

The disclosure resurrected questions about a two-week period in 2002, when Ensign abruptly dropped from public view. A person familiar with that episode, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Tuesday the senator told a close associate the absence followed an earlier affair.

In Las Vegas on Wednesday, lawyer Daniel Albregts issued a statement that said “Doug and Cindy Hampton can confirm that they are the individuals referenced by Senator Ensign during his press conference.”

“It is unfortunate the senator chose to air this very personal matter, especially after the Hamptons did everything possible to keep this matter private,” the lawyer said. “It is equally unfortunate that he did so without concern for the effect such an announcement would have on the Hampton family. In time the Hamptons will be ready and willing to tell their side of the story.”

Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said late Wednesday that the senator learned before the Tuesday news briefing that Doug Hampton had contacted a television news organization. Mazzola disputed the Hamptons’ claim that they had planned to keep the affair private.

Ensign, in his second term, has said he intends to remain in the Senate.

He offered to resign as head of the Republican Policy Committee in a midday phone call with Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party leader.

“He’s accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to his family and constituents. He offered, and I accepted, his resignation as chairman of the Policy Committee,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

Federal records show Cynthia Hampton was on the payroll of Ensign’s Battle Born Political Action Committee at $1,385.24 a month until she was appointed treasurer and her salary was doubled to $2,771.50 starting in February 2008.

Her salary also doubled at Ensign’s campaign committee, where she was treasurer, beginning around the time the affair began. It went from $500 a month to $1,000 a month.

Records also show Doug Hampton received a monthly salary of $13,555 as an administrative assistant in Ensign’s Senate office. He received a payment of $19,679 for his final month of employment and was off the payroll on May 1, 2008, according to Senate records.

Additionally, the National Republican Senatorial Committee made twice-monthly payments, generally $500 apiece, to Brandon Hampton, who Republican officials said was the couple’s son. The payments began in March of last year and ended in August, when Ensign’s office says the affair ended.

“This really doesn’t help a Republican Party that has tried to run as a party of family values,” said Chuck Muth, a self-described conservative-libertarian activist. “It absolutely makes the party look hugely hypocritical.”

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada-Reno, called Ensign’s announcement “another shot in the gut to Nevada Republicans.”

“The party is in disarray, and Ensign was at least a bright spot,” Herzik said. “He was respected.”