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Ensign's Former Treasurer Acknowledges Affair With Senator

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Las Vegas area woman who once worked for Sen. John Ensign of Nevada acknowledged yesterday that she was the senator's mistress in an extramarital affair that has cost the onetime emerging GOP star his spot at the leadership table with Senate Republicans.

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Cynthia L. Hampton, who was treasurer for Ensign's political committees, said she had an affair with the senator that lasted more than eight months. Her statement was issued by an attorney retained by her and her husband, Douglas D. Hampton, who also served as one of Ensign's most senior advisers.

The Hamptons declined to comment further, requesting privacy as they consider how to address the issue in the near future, said Daniel Albregts, a personal-injury lawyer in Las Vegas.

"It is unfortunate the Senator chose to air this very personal matter, especially after the Hamptons did everything possible to keep this matter private. 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," Albregts said in a statement.

Ensign's office confirmed that Cynthia Hampton is the woman he did not identify during a news conference Tuesday when he revealed the relationship. His office declined to answer questions about why the senator chose this week to make public the affair, which ended last year.

Ensign remained in Las Vegas yesterday, after flying home to make the announcement, and is expected to remain there at least through the weekend. The Senate is debating a tourism promotion bill considered key to his state's casino industry, and later this week the chamber will begin debate on a $106 billion spending measure for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A staunch conservative, Ensign supported a constitutional amendment that would have strictly prohibited same-sex marriage, and he also has called on other political figures caught in sex scandals to resign. Three weeks ago, he visited Iowa and stoked speculation that he was considering a presidential run in 2012.

Early yesterday, Ensign surrendered his chairmanship of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, considered the No. 4 spot in leadership ranks, a post that comes with a staff of more than 20 aides who help craft policy positions for GOP senators.

"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," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement, which came after speaking by phone with Ensign.

Ensign's colleagues, who elevated him to the leadership position uncontested last winter, remained stunned by the news, the latest in a string of negative developments for a GOP conference that has fallen from 55 senators to 40 in three years. "I haven't done anything except say a prayer for him," Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.) told reporters.

"It's a no-comment day," said Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.).

A few senators said they hoped Ensign would return to the chamber soon to resume his work rather than resigning outright. "These situations happen. I don't know the facts surrounding John's situation, but Lord knows if we kicked everybody out of here who made a mistake, we'd be short-handed forever," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.).

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