U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., in 2010. (Cathleen Allison/AP)
Chris Cillizza
Reporter May 12, 2011

Just when John Ensign thought he was out, they pulled him back in.

“They,” of course, are the members of the Senate Ethics Committee, which issued a scathing report Thursday afternoon about the former senator’s conduct in connection with an extramarital affair he carried on with a staffer.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House. View Archive

The Nevada Republican had clearly hoped that his decision to resignthis month — he had already announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2012 — would short-circuit what had long been rumored as a humdinger of a report from the Ethics Committee.

It didn’t.

“We have reason to believe Senator Ensign violated laws,” said committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). BOOM! Boxer, reading from the report, said Ensign’s wrongdoing was “substantial enough to warrant the consideration of expulsion” had he not resigned. POW! The ethics panel referred the case to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission for further review. ZAP!

At issue is whether Ensign violated federal law by securing lobbying clients for Doug Hampton, the husband of his mistress and his former chief of staff, and whether Ensign’s parents paid off the Hamptons — to the tune of $96,000 — for staying silent about the affair.

The report prepared for the Ethics Committee by special counsel Carol Elder Bruce reads like a bad romance novel — albeit a page-turner. The affair between Ensign and Cynthia Hampton began after the Hamptons moved in with the Ensigns after a burglary at their home. Doug Hampton found out about it two days before Christmas in 2007 when he saw a text message from Ensign on his wife’s phone that read: “How wonderful it is . . . Scared, but excited.”

John Ensign, for not going quietly into the night (even though you tried), you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for Worst Week in Washington? Email Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

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