Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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THE SENATOR’S SCANDAL:

E-mails show Ensign’s staff knew of affair

WASHINGTON -- Republican Sen. John Ensign’s top staff at the National Republican Senatorial Committee knew about the senator’s affair during the height of the 2008 election season last summer before the party’s devastating losses that bolstered Democratic control of the Senate, according to e-mails obtained by a Las Vegas Sun columnist.

The Sun’s Jon Ralston is also reporting this afternoon that the woman’s husband sought help from former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, further questioning if Santorum tipped off Ensign that the husband was going public with the affair.

Ralston reports that Mike and Lindsey Slanker, the husband-and-wife team that helped run the national committee when Ensign was its chairman last year, struggled as they dealt with fallout from the senator’s affair.

Ensign admitted an affair with Cynthia Hampton, his former campaign treasurer, whose husband, Doug Hampton, had been one of the senator’s top aides at the time.

Ensign later helped Doug Hampton get a job with November Inc., the Nevada-based political consulting firm run by the Slankers.

Mike Slanker worked as the committee’s political director for the 2008 election cycle, and his wife was the committee’s financial director.

In one e-mail exchange dated July 10, 2008 between Mike Slanker and Doug Hampton obtained by Ralston shows that Slanker would have been aware of the affair. The men are discussing the strain the situation has caused the friendship between their families and work environment.

Another e-mail that day from Lindsey Slanker to Cynthia Hampton further discusses the difficulty the situation has had on their friendship.

Mike Slanker had previously told the Associated Press he was unaware of the affair.

The e-mails are posted here.

Ensign’s Republican colleagues in the Senate essentially gave him a pass after losing eight seats during the 2008 election and putting Democrats within sight of a filibuster-proof majority, chalking it up to a difficult year for the Republican Party.

Ensign went on to be elected by his peers to party leadership last fall, but stepped down from the No. 4 position earlier this year after announcing his affair.

With Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch from Republican to Democrat, the Democrats have a 60-seat filibuster proof majority.

Ralston also reports that Doug Hampton’s e-mail to Santorum is dated June 15, the day before Ensign abruptly left Washington to return to Las Vegas to announce the affair.

The e-mail is posted here.

Ensign’s office has said the senator decided to go public because the husband was taking the affair to the media.

Santorum has declined to address the situation when asked recently by Politico.

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