Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada appeared on CNN Dec. 31 and was grilled tenaciously by Rick Sanchez. For those that haven’t been following the issue, Senator Ensign started having an affair with the wife of one of his top aides, Douglas Hampton. When they were found out Ensign’s family gave Hampton a “gift” of $96,000 and Ensign arranged for lobbying jobs to help Hampton financially. In the process the Senator almost certainly violated the law against former aides working as lobbyists within one year of their government employment.
According to The New York Times:
Senate ethics rules and federal criminal law prohibit former aides, if they have ‘the intent to influence,’ from making ‘any communication to or appearance’ with any senator or Senate staff member for a year after leaving their jobs. A separate law required Mr. Hampton to register as a lobbyist if he intended to press a company’s case on Capitol Hill.
I could care less about the infidelity, that’s a personal matter and has nothing to do with the business of government (though it’s ironic that Ensign was a leading voice denouncing Bill Clinton for his own affair). But when contracts are arranged and backroom deals are made because of these personal affairs, that’s a different matter altogether.
Rick Sanchez, to his credit, avoids the titillating details and focuses on the important issues at hand. This sort of thing is so rare in today’s media landscape that it’s important to point it out when it occurs.