REPORT: C Street Senator Actively Negotiated Multi-Million Dollar Hush Money Package For Ensign’s Mistress
After a 22-month investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee released a report on the conduct of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), who resigned early this month. The report contains voluminous evidence suggesting Ensign may have violated several laws in an effort to cover up an affair with a member of his staff. The committee has referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
Contained in the 67-page report, however, is troubling evidence of the central role that current Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) played in trying to keep Ensign’s mistress and her husband quiet — evidence that contradicts Coburn’s previous public statements on the matter.
In July 2009, Coburn said he was consulting with Ensign “as a physician and as an ordained deacon” and he considered it a “privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody.” Asked about the claim from Doug Hampton, the husband of Ensign’s mistress, that he “urged Ensign to pay the Hamptons millions of dollars,” Coburn said, “I categorically deny everything he said.”
Coburn was similarly blunt in a November 22, 2009 interview with George Stephanopoulos:
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told me flatly that he did not offer to broker a million-dollar deal between his Senate colleague, John Ensign, R-Nev., and the family of Ensign’s mistress.
Doug Hampton, the husband of a staffer with whom Ensign had an affair, makes the explosive allegation in an interview with “Nightline’s” Cynthia McFadden that will air on Monday.
…When I asked Coburn on This Week if Hampton is telling the truth, he said, “There was no negotiation,” but acknowledged that he had worked to “bring two families to a closure of a very painful episode.”
Coburn eventually agreed to cooperate with the Ethics Committee; their findings on the level of his involvement are startling. According to the committees report, Coburn actively assisted in the discussions of a hush money package, negotiating a proposed package from $8 million down to $2.8 million. The ethics committee report, on pages 37 to 38, describes the negotiation between Mr. Albregts, an attorney for the husband of Ensign’s mistress, and Sen. Coburn:
Mr. Albregts tried to get a ballpark estimate from Senator Coburn as to the amount he would be comfortable with. Mr. Albregts proposed $8 million based on a document Doug Hampton prepared. According to Mr. Albregts, Senator Coburn said that the figure was absolutely ridiculous. Senator Coburn then stated that the Ensigns should buy the Hamptons home because it is so close to the Ensigns, and the Hamptons should receive an amount of money above and beyond that to start over, buy a new home, have some living money while they were looking for new employment, and possibly some seed money to send the children off to college. Senator Coburn stated that that’s what I’ve thought from day one would be fair, but said that $8 million was nowhere close to a reasonable figure. Senator Coburn told Mr. Albregts to figure out what those amounts would be, and call him back.
Mr. Albregts then spoke with Mr. Hampton, and asked him how much it would cost to get the house paid for, and how much he needed above that figure to get started somewhere new. Mr. Hampton then came back with some figures, and estimated $1.2 million for the home, and another $1.6 million to get started somewhere new. Mr. Albregts called Senator Coburn back for the final time with this revised figure on the same day in a five-minute call. Per Mr. Albregts, Senator Coburn responded by stating that okay, that’s what I had in mind and I think is fair and said he would take the figure to the Ensigns.
The Ensigns rejected the new offer. Previous reports referenced Coburn’s role as a go-between but did not reveal the extent of his inovlement in the negotations. The report notes that “Mr. Albregts testified that Senator Coburn took an active role in the negotiations between Mr. Hampton and Senator Ensign, and this role included proposing specific resolutions.” Coburn told the committee that he was “simply going to pass information” to Ensign.
One thing is certain: Tom Coburn has a lot of explaining to do.