Ethics finds Ensign violated federal law 

A special counsel hired by the Senate ethics committee has found "substantial credible evidence," that former Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. broke Senate rules and federal laws and engaged in improper conduct stemming from an affair with a former aide.

The Senate Ethics Committee released the findings in an extensive and scathing report on Thursday that coincided with an unusual announcement about the case on the Senate floor by ethics panel Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and ranking member Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

Ensign resigned weeks ago when it became clear the ethics committee was not going to drop the case against him despite his decision not to seek re-election in 2012.

Ensign's troubles began after he had an affair with an aide Cynthia Hampton and then tried to appease her angry husband, Doug Hampton, a former Ensign Senate aide, by finding the couple lucrative jobs and paying them nearly $100,000.

The report states that the money, provided by Ensign's parents, may constitute an unlawful campaign contribution but that is just a small part of the troubling findings.

Ensign is accused of encouraging improper contact between Doug Hampton and his Senate office, in violation of a law prohibiting former senior aides from lobbying Congress for one year.

According to the special counsel hired by the committee, Ensign also changed office policies to hide his interactions and aid to Hampton, which included arranging high-level meetings with agency officials.

The ethics panel has no power to punish Ensign because he is no longer a senator, but it can send the report to the Justice Department, which could decide to take action against him.

Doug Hampton was indicted in March for violating the lobbying ban. Ensign was replaced this week in the Senate by Republican Dean Heller, who is also running for a full six-year term in the 2012 elections.



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