FBI Has Emails With New Evidence for Ensign Probe

john ensign

john ensign

WASHINGTON (AP) - E-mails turned over to the FBI and Senate
ethics investigators provide new evidence about Sen. John Ensign's
efforts to find lobbying work for the husband of his former
mistress and could add to his legal problems, The New York Times
reported.

Ensign, R-Nev., suggested that a Las Vegas development firm hire
the husband, Douglas Hampton, after it had sought the senator's
help on several energy projects in 2008, according to previously
undisclosed e-mails and interviews with company executives, the
Times reported on its Web site late Wednesday.

The newspaper said the e-mails are the first written records
from Ensign documenting his efforts to find work for Hampton, a
former top aide and close friend, after the senator had an affair
with his wife, Cynthia Hampton, a former Ensign campaign staffer.

The Times said the messages appear to undercut the senator's
assertion that he did not know the work might involve congressional
lobbying, which could violate a federal ban on such activities by
staff members for a year after leaving government.

The e-mail messages also hint at what Ensign's office now says
was an effort by the Las Vegas firm, P2SA Equity, to improperly
link Ensign's possible assistance to a promised donation, the Times
said.

The FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee are investigating
whether Ensign, in trying to contain the fallout from his affair
with Hampton, conspired to find lobbying work for her husband after
they left their jobs after the affair ended in 2008, despite the
federal restrictions.

According to the e-mails, Ensign met in May 2008 with P2SA
co-owner Greg Paulk, who has been a campaign contributor to the
senator, and Bob Andrews, then P2SA's executive vice president.
Andrews told the Times he sought Ensign's support for a biodiesel
project to be built in Las Vegas and a possible land swap in Sloan,
Nev., with the federal Bureau of Land Management for a solar power
plant.

Ensign brought up the idea of P2SA's hiring Hampton, Andrews
recalled.

The senator mentioned "that he might have somebody we should
talk to who might be able to provide us with assistance in our
biodiesel program," Andrews said. "I took this as a helpful
hint."

In a follow-up e-mail message obtained by the FBI and Senate
investigators, Andrews wrote to Ensign: "We are excited about the
assistance that you and your staff may be able to give us in
regards to the biodiesel and our properties south of Sloan."

Andrews added: "Give me the information regarding next week's
fundraising and we will certainly attend. Thanks again."

P2SA ultimately decided not to hire Hampton.

Reached by The Associated Press by phone, Hampton lawyer Dan
Albregts had no comment. The Justice Department also declined
comment.

Ensign's spokeswoman, Rebecca Fisher, told the Times: "Sen.
Ensign has stated clearly, he has not violated any law or Senate
ethics rule."

In August 2008, Paulk donated $10,000 to a political action
committee affiliated with Ensign and a half-dozen other
politicians, the Times said.

Ensign's office returned $1,666 his share of the contribution in
late 2008 after a staff member alerted him to the potential ethics
problem.

In a statement late Wednesday, Fisher said the senator "not
only returned the donation, but also informed the company that his
office could not be of assistance in any capacity due to the
connection of a fundraiser and legislative requests made by any
employee of the company."


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