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Ensign back in D.C.; group plans ethics complaint

Updated Monday, June 22, 2009 | 3:36 p.m.

WASHINGTON - Republican Sen. John Ensign returned to the capital today to handshakes from colleagues.

It was the first public appearance for the senator who admitted last week to having conducted an eight-month affair with a former campaign staffer who is married to one of his former top aides.

In a dark suit and bold red tie, Ensign arrived on the Senate floor for a vote on a tourism bill he co-authored.

Several senators from both sides of the political aisle, including Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Chuck schumer of New York, shook his hand. Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a housemate, stood by his side at the Nevadan's desk.

Earlier today, an ethics watchdog group said it is preparing an ethics complaint against Republican Sen. John Ensign, calling for an investigation of activity surrounding his affair with a former campaign staffer.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington expects to file the complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee by mid-week.

“We are filing an ethics complaint against the senator,” said spokeswoman Naomi Seligman. She declined to provide details of the complaint, only that it would seek an “investigation into activities surrounding his affair.”

Ensign returned to Washington today after being out last week as he acknowledged the affair. The former campaign staffer, Cynthia Hampton, is the wife of one of Ensign’s former top aides, Doug Hampton.

The Senate Ethics Committee is famously tight-lipped about its work.

Potential questions could involve the affair or the pay the Hamptons received while working for the senator, as well as their departure in May 2008. Cynthia Hampton's pay could also be a question for the Federal Elections Commission.

Ensign’s office has maintained Cynthia Hampton’s pay raises during the time of the affair were in line with added duties at his campaign committees. Ensign’s office has said Doug Hampton’s extra pay during his final month was accrued vacation.

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