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Former Sen. John Ensign hit with fine over contributions

Sen. John Ensign
Sen. John Ensign
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Updated: 5/18/2013 11:13 am
By Karoun Demirjian
LAS VEGAS SUN

The Federal Election Commission announced Friday a $32,000 fine against former U.S. Sen. John Ensign of Nevada and his former campaign committee treasurer, Lisa Lisker, for failing to disclose "excessive in-kind contributions" from Ensign's parents that were allegedly used to cover up an affair that precipitated Ensign's early exit from office in 2011.

Ensign's parents, Michael and Sharon Ensign, gave Ensign's mistress, Cynthia Hampton, and her husband, Douglas Hampton, $96,000 to enable the couple to leave Ensign's employment after Douglas Hampton learned of his wife's affair with the Republican senator.

That payment, however, was never disclosed. Michael and Sharon Ensign were also fined $22,000 by the FEC.

Ensign and Lisker agreed to the settlement, which amounts to an official admission that they "knowingly accepted excessive contributions from Michael and Sharon Ensign" and failed to report them, according to an agreement attorneys for the FEC and Ensign signed in April. The documents pertaining to the case were only released Friday afternoon.

The FEC and the Department of Justice launched investigations of Ensign after his affair came to light in 2009.

Ensign was accused of campaign finance violations and improperly using his position as a senator to help Douglas Hampton violate the mandatory one-year lobbying ban on former employees.

Hampton had served as Ensign's chief of staff and his wife, Cynthia, worked on the senator's campaign committee.

But Ensign was never fined or otherwise censured for his actions and resigned his Senate seat in early May 2011. That was days before the Senate Ethics Committee released a scathing report excoriating his actions and finding "reason to believe that Ensign violated laws," including campaign finance laws.

Ensign served as a Nevada senator from 2001 until he stepped down in 2011.


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