[Breaking news at the bottom!]
From The Washington Post:
GOP Leader Tight-Lipped on Ensign
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) repeatedly refused to answer questions Friday about a New York Times report that embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) negotiated a cover-up of his extramarital affair with a campaign staffer, with his friend Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) serving as a financial intermediary.
How can Mitch McConnell be tight-lipped when he has no lips?
Original DVD cover
At a Friday morning news conference, McConnell faced a barrage of questions from reporters about the Times’s 4,000-word front-page investigation suggesting that Ensign may have improperly used his office to aid his mistress and her husband, who had been one of Ensign’s top Washington staffers. Asked if Ensign could still be effective, McConnell said, “Sen. Ensign continues to serve,” and said he does not have “any observations to make about the Ensign matter.”
Ensign publicly admitted his affair with Cynthia Hampton earlier this year, but the Times’s detailed account of the senator’s efforts to mitigate the damage generated significant buzz across Washington and threatens to further damage Ensign’s political future. The story shows how Ensign marshaled his political connections with corporate leaders in Nevada to help Hampton’s husband, Douglas Hampton, find a lobbying or consulting job after he left Ensign’s employ. The Times also reported that Coburn served as an intermediary between Ensign and the Hamptons in discussing a “large financial settlement” to help them rebuild their lives.
In accordance with standard procedures, the Senate Ethics Committee is looking into charges of misconduct regarding Ensign’s affair.
“Whenever allegations of improper conduct are brought to the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee, we open a preliminary inquiry,” said Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the ethics panel. Ravitz declined to comment further on the Ensign investigation.
From TULSA WORLD:
WASHINGTON — New details concerning U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s role in talks over whether a former mistress of another senator should receive compensation triggered questions Friday about the Oklahoma Republican’s earlier denials.
Ensign’s affair with his then-campaign treasurer, whose husband worked as a top Senate aide to Ensign, triggered a months-long scandal that continues to play out in the media.
New revelations were reported this week by The New York Times.
They indicate that Coburn might have been much more involved in talks concerning whether Cynthia Hampton, Ensign’s former mistress, should receive money than his earlier remarks indicated.
In July, Doug Hampton, Cynthia Hampton’s husband, said in an interview with a Las Vegas Sun columnist that Coburn had encouraged Ensign to make some kind of restitution. Coburn denied Hampton’s comments in remarks to reporters for several news outlets.
“None whatsoever,” he told the Tulsa World when asked whether he had discussed some kind of payment to the Hamptons.
“I categorically deny that.”
In its story, The New York Times described “a series of intense, though ultimately futile conversations intended to reach a financial settlement.”
Coburn reportedly told the newspaper that he raised the issue with Ensign.
Both men are known as conservative Christians, and they are associated with a Capitol Hill townhouse linked to a secretive organization that, among other activities, puts on the national prayer breakfast that has drawn presidents and leaders from around the world for years.
According to the newspaper, Coburn dismissed an $8.5 million figure from the Hamptons’ attorney as ridiculous but then passed a roughly $2 million figure to Ensign, who rejected it.
“That’s a joke; forget it,” Coburn told the newspaper, recalling Ensign’s reaction.
In July, it was revealed that Ensign’s parents had paid $96,000 to the Hamptons and two of their children.
Coburn, who before his July remarks mostly refused to address issues swirling around Ensign, declined a request Friday for an interview.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Coburn’s activities will be covered by her organization’s renewed request for the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to look into Ensign.
[Sloan said] questions now should be asked about whether Doug Hampton’s meeting with Coburn and other senators violated the lobbying law as well as the purpose of any payment to Ensign’s former mistress.
Sloan said it could be viewed as “hush money.” She also described as “ridiculous” Coburn’s earlier claims that he might refuse to answer questions about Ensign from the ethics committee because he had privilege as both a church deacon and a physician.
Coburn was neither Ensign’s deacon nor his physician, Sloan said.
“It was a laughable privilege claim,” she said, adding that clearly now Coburn is “spilling his guts” to the New York Times.
This just in, kids!! Ms Sloan is correct, and Coburn’s claims of priest/penitent privilege and doctor/patient confidentiality aren’t going to fly. Senators Ensign and Coburn knew that, so they thought of an even better privilege. The senators were married in a secret ceremony in 2008 in California. Mr. and Mr. Ensign-Coburn are going to rely on the spousal privilege from now on. I have the photographic proof. Here’s a photo of the happy couple when they returned to C Street after flying back to D.C. from California.
Remember you heard and saw it here first!