Results of Ensign Investigation Likely to Be Made Public Despite Resignation
John Ensign may have resigned in order to avoid answering questions under oath about $96,000 paid by his parents to the family of his former mistress, but he's not going to avoid the release of the official Senate investigation of his actions. New York Times:
Mr. Ensign acknowledged he was stepping down to avoid further scrutiny — hoping that his departure from the Senate would mean the end of any further questions about his affair with Cynthia Hampton, the wife of his former senior aide, Douglas Hampton.
But in interviews on Friday officials said that the two leaders of the Ethics Committee — both the top Democrat and the top Republican — had decided not to let the investigation completely disappear. They are likely to take the unusual step of issuing a statement that details evidence of wrongdoing uncovered in a 22-month investigation that was the largest in more than a decade, including interviews with dozens of witnesses and a review of records of Mr. Ensign and his family.
The investigators were focused in particular on the assertion by Mr. Ensign that the $96,000 payment made in April 2008 by Mr. Ensign’s wealthy parents was a gift to help longtime family friends and had nothing to do with any effort to keep Douglas and Cynthia Hampton from disclosing an affair that might wreck a political career.
Legally, the key question is whether the $96,000 payment represents an illegal campaign expenditure, or, as Ensign claims, it was a gift.
Whatever happens on the legal front, the political implications of Ensign's resignation are unlikely to be significant, as David pointed out yesterday. As Nate Silver points out, assuming Nevada's Republican governor Brian Sandoval appoints Rep. Dean Heller, who had already announced his candidacy, the biggest advantage will probably be that Heller won't face any more tough votes forced upon him by House Republicans.
Nonetheless, Heller already walked the plank on the biggest vote of them all, siding with his fellow House Republicans the vote to end Medicare. If that plan ever comes up for a vote in the Senate, it will be interesting to see if Heller votes the same way.