Ensign's parents gave mistress's family $96k

July 9, 2009 1:16:27 PM PDT
U.S. Sen. John Ensign's parents gave the Nevada Republican's mistress and her family nearly $100,000 "out of concern for the well being of longtime family friends during a difficult time," an attorney for the senator said Thursday. In a statement sent to reporters, Paul Coggins described the payment as a single check for $96,000 given to Cindy and Doug Hampton and two of their children. It was given in April 2008, Coggins said, after the senator told his parents of his affair with Cindy Hampton, a campaign aide and longtime friend.

"None of the gifts came from campaign or official funds, nor were they related to any campaign or official duties," the statement said. "Sen. Ensign has complied with all applicable laws and Senate ethics rules."

The statement comes a day after Doug Hampton told a Las Vegas television show that Ensign paid Cindy Hampton more than $25,000 in severance when she left her job as treasurer for two Ensign-controlled campaign committees.

Ensign had not commented directly on allegations of a payments to the Hamptons, but through a spokesman called Doug Hampton's statements "consistently inaccurate."

A Washington watchdog group has said such a payment could have violated campaign finance laws because it was not reported by the committees.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has sought a Senate ethics investigation and on Thursday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a criminal probe of the matter.

Coggins, a Dallas-based attorney with the firm Fish and Richardson PC, said no laws were violated with the $96,000 check. "The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others," he said. "The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts."

Ensign, a 51-year-old conservative Christian lawmaker, confessed to the affair last month, after Doug Hampton approached the media and sought money from the senator through an attorney. Until May 2008, Doug Hampton also worked for Ensign, as a Senate aide. He said Wednesday that his livelihood had been ruined by his wife's affair.

The Hamptons and Ensigns have been friends for decades. Cindy Hampton and Ensign's wife, Darlene, went to high school together. The families live in adjacent gated communities in the Las Vegas suburbs and their children attend the same school.

Ensign is the son of wealthy casino mogul and Las Vegas businessman Mike Ensign.

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