The dirty details

    John Ensign, the family-values fraud who quit his U.S. Senate seat on May 3 just as federal ethics investigators were preparing to expose his sexual and (potentially) criminal proclivities, clearly hoped that his abrupt departure would kill the story. It didn’t. Late last week, the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee went ahead and released its report on Ensign anyway – understandably so, given the broad extent of Ensign’s sleaze.The 68-page report details, with dry dispassion, the misadventures of the fallen Republican star and purported religious conservative (“Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country”) who engineered an extramarital affair with his best friend’s wife (the friend and the wife both worked in his Senate office); who later tried to buy the couple’s silence by giving them $96,000 in “severance” pay; who also tried to muscle various Nevada firms into hiring the cuckolded guy as a lobbyist. The report, sent to the Justice Department, says there is “substantial credible evidence” that Ensign “violated Senate Rules and federal civil and criminal laws, and engaged in improper conduct reflecting upon the Senate, thus betraying the public trust and bringing discredit to the Senate.” The big takeaway is that if Ensign hadn’t quit, the Ethics Committee might have recommended that he be expelled – a punishment that no senator has received since 1862. I’ll assume that you have no interest in reading the whole report. But that’s cool, because I did it for you. See if you can correctly identify the highlights. No fair peeking at the answers!1. Ensign, a regular National Prayer Breakfast attendee who was counseled by a spiritual leader on a weekly basis, had a code name for his lover, Cindy Hampton. To ensure that Mrs. Ensign didn’t catch on, the senator listed Cindy in his cellphone directory as(a) Joe’s Auto Parts(b) Aunt Judy(c) Church of the Open Arms(d) Ronald Reagan Foundation2. In order to communicate with Cindy on the sly, he created various yahoo email accounts. Choose the only one that he did not create.(a) fredschwartz72(b) mariaschwartz(c) rabbirabinowitz08(d) maryholland823. When Doug Hampton found out on Dec, 23, 2007 that the senator was sleeping with Cindy, (a) he threw a drink in the senator’s face(b) he cried in the senator’s arms(c) he sent the senator a new edition of the Bible(d) he chased the senator through an airport parking lot4. True or False: Two days later, after the senator confessed to the affair in front of his wife and his friend, the two couples celebrated Christmas together.5. When the affair continued anyway, into 2008, the senator decided that Doug should no longer work for him. He didn’t want Doug to know his whereabouts. So he tried to get Doug a job as a lobbyist. He approached a guy he knew in Nevada and said that Doug was leaving the Senate staff because Doug was tired of traveling. The Nevada guy was ready to hire Doug – until the night when Mrs. Ensign called him at home and spilled the beans. The Nevada guy subsequently confronted the senator in his office, and said he knew that the senator had lied to him about Doug. But the senator didn’t seem embarrassed. According to the Nevada guy’s testimony, Ensign was too busy(a) “eating Wheat Thins one at a time, kind of tossing them in his mouth”(b) “tossing a Styrofoam ball through a hoop”(c) “bobbing his head to the music from a country-western CD”(d) “staring at a wall painting of Ronald Reagan”6. In early 2008, when it became clear that ethics investigators were on Ensign’s trail, the senator issued some new directives. The office manager told staffers that, at the senator’s request, henceforth they would be (a) “referring all ethics inquiries to a defense lawyer later to be determined”  (b) “introducing a new computer system that might cause serious record-upload delays”(c) “implementing a long overdue shredding program”(d) “transferring any and all Hampton-related correspondence to Sony Storage floppy disks”7. On Valentine’s Day 2008, members of Ensign’s spiritual circle insisted that the senator write a letter to Cindy Hampton ending the affair once and for all. Doug attended this intervention, “and at one point got very close to a physical confrontation with Senator Ensign.” In response, Senator Ensign(a) declined to write the letter, claiming that his pen was out of ink(b) agreed to write the letter, in exchange for donations to his re-election campaign(c) wrote the letter, but he later “forgot” to mail it(d) wrote the letter, allowed a buddy to mail it – then told Cindy to ignore it8. When another Nevada firm balked at hiring Doug Hampton, the senator was very displeased. In a potential violation of federal law, he instructed aide John Lopez to retaliate against Sig Rogich, the firm’s key adviser. Ensign’s words:(a) “jack him up to high heaven and tell him that he is cut off from the office and never to contact (me) ever again”(b) “smack him down to the pits of hell until he decides to give poor Doug a break”(c) “tell that idiot the next time he wants to play golf with (me), he’ll be lucky if I let him caddy”(d) “let him know that, from this point forward, he is dead to me”9. The senator’s distressed aide, John Lopez, spoke freely to ethics investigators. Identify the one remark that he did not make.(a) “I was just in way over my head.”(b) “When the senator asked me to (screw Rogich), I really felt like this is wrong. I remember really feeling like that was abusing the office.”(c) “It was very typical of John Ensign to, you know, see no evil, hear no evil…I didn’t take anything to him because it was out of his hair, it was out of sight, out of mind.”(d) “I was, you know, essentially taking the heat on his behalf.”(e) Oh heck, Lopez said them all.10. When Ensign’s spiritual adviser discovered that the senator was shacked up in a hotel, yet again, with Cindy Hampton, the adviser called the senator’s cellphone and told him:(a) “God sees your sin, and He is ashamed of you!”(b) “This is why you will never be president of the United States!”(c) “Please grow a pair and leave that poor woman alone!”(d) “If Ronald Reagan was alive today, he would be ashamed of you!”(e) “I know exactly what you are doing. Put your pants on and go home!”ANSWERS: 1(b), 2(c), 3 (d), 4-True, 5(a), 6(c), 7(d), 8(a), 9(e), 10(e)

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal