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Entries in John Ensign (9)

Friday
May252012

Ethics Panel Admonishes Sen. Tom Coburn

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Ethics committee has slapped the hand of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK., for engaging in communication with an ex-aide of the disgraced former Sen. John Ensign.

The committee said there was “improper conduct” between the Coburn and ex-Ensign aide Doug Hampton, by violating the Senate rule, which bars contact on legislative matters within the first year of a staffer’s departure.

“The Committee found that you met with Mr. Hampton on official business even though you had reason to know that he was legally prohibited from requesting or participating in such a meeting,” the letter written Friday to Coburn from the Ethics Committee says.

The Senate’s Post-Employment Contact Ban prohibits former senior staff, like Hampton, for one year from knowingly communicating or appearing before their former Senate colleagues if their intent is to influence official action and they acting on behalf of any other person – called the “cooling off period.”

Hampton is an employee of Allegiant Air. The committee found that during Hampton’s cooling-off period he met with Coburn in March of 2009 and discussed both personal and business related matter, including the FAA reauthorization and “substantive matter of legislative concern to Allegiant.”

The Ethics Committee says the communication and meeting was “improper,” which reflects poorly on the Senate. But, they determined that the “Public Letter of Qualified Admonition” sent today is enough punishment.

“In deciding to issue a qualified admonition, the Committee took note that it was one meeting that you have since candidly acknowledged was wrong and taken full responsibility for arranging,” they write. “The Committee recognizes and appreciates your contrition.”

The Ethics Committee’s six-member panel says they now deem the “matter closed.”

Senator Coburn’s office will be issuing a statement shortly.

Former Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign resigned from Congress in 2011 after having an affair with Hampton’s wife.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Coburn says in a statement to ABC News that the Senate Ethics Committee's letter was "gratuitous," and says the burden of compliance should be on those under the lobbying ban, not members of Congress.

Full paper statement below:

“The burden of compliance should be on individuals under the lobbying ban, not on the thousands of employees on Capitol Hill who are now being asked to access a database of banned individuals each time they get a phone call or meeting request.  Admonishing Dr. Coburn for failing to know Hampton was only seven weeks shy of ending his year-long cooling off period is gratuitous, particularly when Dr. Coburn cooperated fully with the ethics committee and went out of his way to acknowledge that he could have taken additional steps to learn that Hampton was under the ban – even though, again, the burden of compliance was on Hampton.  It is unfortunate the committee has impugned Dr. Coburn for their failure to provide workable guidance for a law that was passed nearly five years ago.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May122011

Senate Ethics Panel Refers John Ensign Case to Justice Dept.

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just over a week ago, an apologetic Sen. John Ensign stood on the Senate floor and bid farewell to the chamber one day before his resignation took effect. On Thursday, the Senate Ethics Committee, after a 22-month investigation, referred the Ensign case to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges.

"It is a cautionary tale. It shows that our actions, all of them, have consequences," the panel’s chair Barbara Boxer said in announcing the findings on the Senate floor, a highly unusual move.

"When you are in a position of trust and power, don’t abuse it. Don’t misuse it. Because people can get hurt, very, very hurt," she warned.

Over the course of the "long and difficult" Ethics Committee probe, Boxer said, the panel deposed or interviewed 72 witnesses, issued 32 subpoenas, and reviewed more than half a million documents before reaching its conclusion. The panel's special counsel, Carol Elder Bruce, determined that Ensign's conduct was so "disturbing" that if he had not resigned, the evidence of wrongdoing was "substantial enough" to consider the penalty of expulsion from the Senate, the harshest penalty possible, Boxer noted.

In April, Ensign announced that he would leave office early due to the "continued personal cost" of the fallout from an extramarital affair he had with Cindy Hampton, the wife of his former top aide, Doug Hampton. The affair had occurred while Doug Hampton was employed by the senator.

According to his former Senate colleagues, the Nevada Republican tried to cover up the sex scandal, made false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and violated campaign finance laws. The Senate panel on Thursday referred the case to both Justice and the Federal Election Commission.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Nevada's New Senator Dean Heller Sworn In

Ethan Miller/Getty Images for CityCenter(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Joe Biden on Monday issued the oath of office to the newest senator, Nevada Republican Dean Heller. Heller replaces John Ensign, who resigned last month amid an ethics investigation.

Heller was escorted by Nevada's other senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid, who slipped and dislocated his shoulder while running last week. Reid appeared with a black eye, his arm in a sling.

Heller makes the move to the Senate from just across Capitol Hill, where he was a congressman in the House.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May022011

Apologetic John Ensign Bids Farewell to the Senate

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An apologetic Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Monday bid farewell to the Senate one day before his resignation takes effect on Tuesday.

During the two week congressional recess that ended Monday, Ensign announced that he would leave office early due to the “continued personal cost” of the fallout from an extramarital affair he had with the wife of his former top aide. The affair became the source of a criminal and ethics investigation. While Ensign announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election in 2012 and the Justice Department dropped its probe into payments he made to his former staffer, the Senate Ethics Committee continued to plow ahead with its investigation. Ultimately, Ensign opted to step aside early.

“We’ve accomplished a lot,” Ensign said Monday on the Senate floor, touting -- among other things -- his record as an advocate for education reform.

When he came to Capitol Hill, Ensign said, “I simply wanted to make a difference in this great country. Throughout the years, I may have lost my naivete, but I never lost my idealism.”

“Unfortunately I was blind to how arrogant and self-centered I had become. I did not recognize that I thought mostly of myself,” he said. “This is how dangerous the feeling of power and adulation can be.”

Unlike in his resignation statement issued late last month, Ensign on Monday apologized to his Senate colleagues and to his family. In addition, he described how his personal experience had taught him to forgive others. He recounted how he had once called on former Sens. Ted Stevens and Larry Craig to resign, but later apologized to them and asked for their forgiveness.

“I hope that I can now show mercy to people who come into my life who truly need it,” Ensign vowed.

Last week Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Rep. Dean Heller to fill Ensign’s seat.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr272011

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval Appoints Rep. Dean Heller to Replace Sen. Ensign

U.S. House of Representatives(CARSON CITY, Nev.) -- Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced Wednesday that he would appoint Congressman Dean Heller, R-Nev., to the U.S. Senate as a replacement for Sen. John Ensign.

"The people of Nevada deserve a new senator who can begin work immediately," Sandoval said in a statement Wednesday.  "Too many important issues face our state and our nation to name a caretaker to this important position; Nevada needs an experienced voice in Washington, D.C."

Gov. Sandoval highlighted Heller's 12 years as a member of Nevada state legislature.  Heller is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Sandoval also described Heller as a "fiscal conservative who believes in limited government."

Heller's appointment comes after Ensign's recent resignation. After first claiming in March that he would not seek re-election in 2012, Ensign announced his resignation from his office last week. 

Ensign has been the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee regarding his extramarital affair with the wife of his former top aide.

Sandoval indicated Wednesday his hopes for a smooth transition.

"Recognizing that this appointment will create a vacancy in the office of the U.S. Representative from Nevada's Second Congressional District, I pledge to work closely with Secretary of State Ross Miller on the time of the upcoming transition and resulting special election."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr222011

Ethics Committee Calls Ensign Resignation 'Appropriate;' Investigation Continues

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee released a statement Thursday on the impending resignation of Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., early next month.

The statement, issued from committee co-chairs Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., says that Ensign “made the appropriate decision” in resigning. But it also suggests that the Committee, which has been investigating him for 22 months, would continue and complete its work. The conventional wisdom is that once a member resigns, investigations stop. Apparently not in this case.
 
The full statement reads, “The Senate Ethics Committee has worked diligently for 22 months on this matter and will complete its work in a timely fashion. Senator Ensign has made the appropriate decision.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr212011

Nevada Sen. John Ensign to Resign Amid Ethics Investigation

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., will announce Friday that he plans to resign from the Senate in May, according to a statement released by his Senate office.

Ensign announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election for a third term in 2012. His extramarital affair with the wife of his former top aide was the source of both criminal and ethics investigation. Last December, the Department of Justice dropped its investigation related to payments he made to his former staffer. He is, however, still a subject of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. Ensign's statement Thursday night makes clear that investigation was ongoing and that the committee recently hired an outside counsel. There is a lot of speculation that the timing of his immediate retirement, first reported by Nevada reporter John Ralston, is related to this investigation.

“While I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate, and I have fought to prove this publicly, I will not continue to subject my family, my constituents, or the Senate to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings.  For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great," said Ensign in the paper statement.

There is also speculation that Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval will appoint Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., for the remainder of Ensign’s term. Heller would have to stand for election in November of 2012. There would also have to be a special election to replace Heller.

There are already at least two Democrats actively running for the Senate seat.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Libya: Senate Republicans Divided on US Involvement 

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Competing groups of Republican senators have introduced resolutions aiming either to boost or curtail the U.S. role in Libya, a sign of how divided Congress is on the military operations there.

One motion, introduced by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the powerful top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, would authorize U.S. forces to operate inside Libya in an effort to keep the situation there from deteriorating into a stalemate between strongman Moammar Gadhafi and the rebels.

"Rather than playing a support role within NATO, America should be leading," McCain said at an Armed Services panel hearing April 7. "Our military should be actively engaged in degrading Gadhafi's forces in the field, which could significantly increase the pressure on his regime and the odds that it will crack."

But fellow GOP Sens. John Ensign of Nevada and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas disagree. Indeed, they argue, the United States has no vital interest in Libya.

They have introduced a resolution to declare that there is no vital U.S. interest in Libya, that Congress has not authorized military power in the region and that NATO and Arab nations that do have a vital interest in the region should increase their military and financial contributions to the effort in Libya.

Ensign said, "I believe that the Senate needs to pass this resolution declaring that our country has no vital interest in Libya so that we can get our servicemen and women out of there once and for all."

The Obama administration is likely to disagree with both measures.

The administration, reluctant to get involved in the conflict in the first place, has stressed it would only do so with international backing. McCain's resolution authorizing the use of ground forces could be at odds with the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone in Libya, which specifically prohibits an occupying force in the country.

And the administration has argued that Libya is of strategic interest to the United States. Privately, administration officials worry that if Gadhafi were to win out against the rebels, it would cast a chill on the so-called Arab Spring movement that has toppled dictators throughout the Middle East.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb012011

Ethics Committee Investigating Ensign's Affair With Campaign Aide

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Ethics Committee on Tuesday appointed a special counsel to handle the probe of Sen. John Ensign, R-NV, a move that could prove damaging to his already imperiled re-election bid.

The panel's chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, and top Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia announced that Carol Elder Bruce will serve as special counsel.

The Senate Ethics panel is currently looking into allegations that Ensign violated Senate rules and federal law. Ensign, who is up for re-election in 2012, had an affair with a former campaign aide who was married to his deputy chief of staff.

"The purpose of a preliminary inquiry is to determine whether there is substantial credible evidence that a violation within the Committee’s jurisdiction has occurred," the Senate panel said in a statement Tuesday.

Last year, the Justice Department scrapped a criminal investigation into the Ensign matter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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