What is it about reasonably good-looking men in elective office who think the rules the rest of us live by do not apply to them? Oh, and they think they won’t get caught. We saw this with disgraced former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.). Now we’re seeing it in full Jackie Collins-style glory in disgraced former senator John Ensign (R-Nev.).
You can read the Senate ethics committee report on Ensign and his reprehensible behavior here. It has everything: allegations of obstruction of justice; payoffs disguised as severance; and adultery by a man who shared a house in Washington with other hyper-spiritual Christian men, including another reasonably good-looking man in elective office who had an international love affair but didn’t resign.
But Ensign’s adultery struck me as more than your garden-variety affair. Reading the ethics report, I was left with the impression that Ensign was the protagonist in an elaborate sexual harassment/hostage situation.
Ensign and his wife, Darlene, and Cynthia and Doug Hampton had been best friends since the late 1980s. They dined together. They vacationed together. Their kids went to the same school. The Ensigns paid the tuition for the Hamptons’ children. The Ensigns lent the Hamptons money. And Ensign would eventually put Doug Hampton on his Senate staff and hire Cynthia Hampton as the treasurer of his leadership PAC.
Ensign began the affair with Cynthia in November 2007 when the Hampton family moved in with the Ensigns after their home was burglarized. Despite being caught more than once, Ensign continued to pursue Cynthia using elaborate ruses — from fake e-mail addresses to buying secret cell phones — to conceal the affair. Meanwhile, Cynthia lived in fear for her job and her family’s livelihood because both she and her husband worked for Ensign. “I just didn’t want to lose my job,” she told investigators. “I had a lot of fear of losing my job.” So, she endured indignities, such as fielding Ensign’s incessant calling and reserving Las Vegas hotel rooms in her name with money he gave her. The affair ended in July 2008.
Ensign’s Senate career came to a crashing halt when he resigned his seat, effective May 3. Now we know why, thanks to the ethics committee’s laudable decision to release its report. The special counsel would have recommended expulsion. Considering the damage he did to his family, the Hampton family and the reputation of the Senate with his unethical stench, Ensign better pray more serious legal action isn’t in his future.