Following a 22 month investigation, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Vice Chair Johnny Isakson (R-GA), released a report yesterday, supported unanimously by the bipartisan committee of three Democrats and three Republicans, that former Nevada Senator John Ensign violated Senate rules, broke federal law, made false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and engaged in sex discrimination. According to the report, "there is substantial credible evidence that Senator Ensign discriminated on the basis of sex and engaged in improper conduct reflecting upon the Senate by terminating the Hamptons' [Douglas Hampton, Ensign's Chief of Staff, and his wife Cindy] employment because of the [sexual] affair" with Cindy.
Moreover, the Ethics Committee found that Ensign attempted to thwart the Ethics Committee's preliminary inquiry, demonstrated improper conduct, and violated laws governing campaign finances. The Ethics Committee investigation also revealed anti-women's rights and so-called pro-family Senator Tom Coburn's (R-OK) involvement and collaboration in the cover-up of Ensign's affair. Both Senators Ensign and Coburn were residents at C-Street, a right wing so-called religious organization where several Republican leaders were revealed to be in sexual scandals.
Eleanor Smeal, President of Feminist Majority, stated, "Once again anti-women's rights Senators who posed as pro-family legislators are revealed to be harmful hypocrites. The Ethics Committee should investigate if Senator Coburn violated Senate rules or laws in collaborating in the cover-up."
The investigation began in June 2009 after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), filed a complaint to the Ethics Committee alleging that Ensign had engaged in sexual harassment and employment discrimination by using his political power to hide his affair with one of his employees who was also the wife his Chief of Staff. According to the report, Cindy Hampton tried repeatedly to stop the affair but Ensign, using his power as the sole financial support for her family, relentlessly pursued her. Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, stated, "It is encouraging to see the Senate Ethics Committee agrees with what CREW has said from the beginning: Senator John Ensign broke the law and he should be prosecuted. Throughout the entire ordeal, Senator Ensign insisted that he did nothing wrong; what a surprise, he lied again."
Senator Boxer indicated that had Ensign not resigned in early May, he might have been one of the first senators to be expelled from the Senate in 150 years. The Ethics Committee referred the case to the Federal Election Committee and the Justice Department for a criminal investigation. This was the first time in 20 years that special counsel was appointed by the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct an investigation of a senator.
Ensign received a 0 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life Committee, indicating his consistent anti-abortion and anti-family planning voting record. The NAACP rated Ensign 7 percent for his anti-affirmative action stance, and the Active Retirement Association (ARA) rated Ensign 20 percent, due to his anti-senior voting record. Ensign has consistently voted against women's rights issues, including the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. He also voted against a bill to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program and is against raising the minimum wage to $7.25. Moreover, Ensign supported the privatization of Social Security.
Media Resources: Referral Letter to the FEC 5/12/11; Referral Letter to the DOJ 5/12/11; Report of the Preliminary Inquiry 5/10/11; On the Issues 5/12/11; AAUW Equal Pay Supplement 2009-2010; New York Times 5/12/11; Associated Press 5/12/11