Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cut It Off

John Ensign in June 2009 [above]. The Senate ethics committee said Thursday it found evidence that he had broken the law.

I'm sorry, but I just can't get off John Ensign's case. Yes, I know he resigned from the Senate and it's hardly as much fun to kick a former senator as it is a current senator. Nonetheless, the word that the Senate Ethics Committee ignored Ensign's resignation and completed their investigation - releasing a public report on May 12th - makes it worth revisiting this seedy bastard.

That's because the same bundle of information that led the Ethics Committee to condemn Ensign led the Justice Department to do absolutely nothing. Like the Ethics Committee, Justice Department officials investigating Ensign spent many hours last year in a Las Vegas office interviewing Ensign's ex-aide, Douglas Hampton, as they scrutinized e-mails, handwritten notes and the aide’s detailed recollections about payoffs, secret lobbying and hush money over a disastrous affair.

Unlike the Justice Department, a unanimous Ethics Committee — in a rare public report that corroborated virtually all of Douglas Hampton’s central assertions — said it found compelling evidence that Ensign had not only broken the law, but that he could have been expelled from the Senate had he not made the decision last month to quit first.

Yet the Justice Department has yet to take any action against Ensign nearly two years after allegations of impropriety first surfaced. In fact, they told Ensign's lawyers last December that they were not pursuing criminal charges against him at the time.

In the meantime, Douglas Hampton - the main witness - is now awaiting trial. Not surprisingly, he has filed for bankruptcy, lost his Las Vegas home to foreclosure and is going through a divorce from the woman into whom Senator Ensign fell - Hampton's wife, Cynthia.

The Senate’s harsh report — contrasted with the Justice Department doing absofuckinglutely nothing — provided further evidence for those who complain that the agency has lost its balls when it comes to taking on public officials, a result of the fiasco that resulted from the 2008 corruption case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens [R, Alaska], which was ultimately dropped amid charges of prosecutorial misconduct.

The Senate also took a far tougher stance than the Federal Election Commission [FEC]. Against the recommendation of its lawyer, the FEC also declined to take action against Ensign after it said it could not disprove sworn statements from Ensign and his parents about a $96,000 payment to the Hamptons that they said was a gift. In contrast, the Ethics Committee said the money in fact appeared to be an “unlawful” severance payment and that Ensign made “false and misleading” statements about it to investigators. It also said Ensign appeared to have destroyed e-mails relevant to the investigation.

An FEC official acknowledged to the New York Times that the commission took Ensign at his word, whereas the Senate dug deeper. This official - a complete moron - expressed anger to the Times after learning the true circumstances behind the $96,000 payment. “I hate it when people lie to us,” the official said, adding: “If somebody submits a sworn affidavit, we usually do not go back and question it, unless we have something else to go on. Maybe we should not be so trusting.”

Gee, ya think?

After being totally embarrassed Thursday, the Justice Department scrambled Friday and said it would look at the new allegations. “We take all referrals of potential crimes seriously,” said Laura Sweeney, a department spokeswoman. “We intend to examine thoroughly the information provided, and take any necessary and appropriate steps based on our review.”

Better late than never, I guess.

For our developmentally challenged Justice Department, the Senate Ethics Committee’s 68-page report should provide them with a road map. And who the hell ever thought the Senate Ethics Committee would be the benchmark for the truth?

Their report offers a blistering day-by-day account of the lies and deception, and provides a wonderfully lurid description of the affair and its consequences. It describes efforts by Ensign to keep the affair going even after Cynthia Hampton pleaded to cut it off [presumably, she meant the affair and not the Senator's penis]. Ensign used multiple cellphone accounts and fired Douglas Hampton in part so that he could no longer track Ensign's schedule.

The report also catalogs hysterical efforts by Ensign's friends to keep him away from Cynthia Hampton - much in the same way friends often stage an intervention to keep a friend from way from alcohol. When Ensign was caught in a Nevada hotel room with Cynthia Hampton after he had vowed multiple times to end the affair, he received an angry phone call there from Timothy Coe, a prominent 'Christian fundamentalist' and 'adviser' to Ensign. “I know exactly where you are,” Coe screamed at Ensign. “I know exactly what you are doing. Put your pants on and go home.”

The Ethics Committee report includes repeated references to an investigation in the New York Times in October 2009 about the secret lobbying work that Ensign had obtained for Douglas Hampton — in violation of Senate restrictions — as a way to earn his silence.

The ethics investigation did give us something new: efforts that Ensign made to find income for Douglas Hampton, and it said that the ex-senator on occasion threatened to “cut off” political supporters who refused him. As you can see, there was a fascination with 'cutting off' things.

The Ethics Committee’s findings make it clear what we suspected all along: Ensign destroyed evidence, obstructed justice and misled investigators.

Particularly stupid ones.

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