Culture Of Corruption: John Ensign’s Hush Money

It looks like Republican Sen. John Ensign didn’t just have an extramarital affair with a married campaign staffer–he also paid her a substantial amount of hush money:

Sen. John Ensign’s attorney acknowledged Thursday that the Nevada Republican’s parents paid nearly $100,000 to the family of his mistress around the time she and her husband left his staff in April 2008.

Paul Coggins, Ensign’s attorney, said in a statement that the senator gave Doug Hampton, Cindy Hampton and their two children gifts worth $96,000 and that “each gift was limited to $12,000.”

[…]

His disclosure comes as the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on the Justice Department to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing of Ensign reportedly giving Cindy Hampton more than $25,000 in a severance package. The group says that under federal law, failing to report contributions of more than $25,000 can result in five years in jail.

[Emphasis mine]

I would be surprised if this hush money payout didn’t land Sen. Ensign before the Senate Ethics Committee–this is at least a serious breach of the public trust, if not a violation of public disclosure and accountability laws.

Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin, John Ensign–it looks like the GOP is continuing their long, slow collapse. At this rate, there won’t be anyone left to run for President in 2012.

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