Posts Tagged ‘John Ensign’

Republican Congressional Candidates Speak Before Republican Women’s Group

By Andrew Doughman | 6:55 pm May 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY — It’s starting to look at lot like campaign season.

Three Republican candidates for Congressional District 2 tried to sell their candidacies to about 100 members of the Nevada Federation of Republican Women at an event at the Plaza Hotel today.

Many of the women in attendance are members of the state party’s central committee, which will nominate one candidate from a field that includes Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei, state Sen. Greg Brower, former U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle and former commander of the U.S.S. Cole, Kirk Lippold.

Angle could not attend due to a scheduling conflict, but the other three spoke at the luncheon and touted conservative talking points — no new taxes, small government, fiscal responsibility — while also talking about who they are and what they can do for the congressional district.

Nevada State Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei speaks to the Nevada Federation of Republican Women, the members of which will help select the party's nominee for Congressional District 2.

Following a lower court ruling earlier this week, the Republican and Democratic parties must select a candidate for a September 13 special election. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., vacated the seat after Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed him to replace outgoing Sen. John Ensign, who resigned following mounting pressure from investigations into an extramarital affair.

Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, is appealing the court’s decision. Miller has argued that Nevada law calls for what he said is a  ”ballot royale,” an election allowing on the ballot numerous candidates from each political party.

In the meantime, candidates are operating under the assumption that their own parties will select one of them. Democrats have already thrown their weight behind Treasurer Kate Marshall.

But in the Republican field, four candidates are vying for the party’s nomination. The party’s central committee members plan to meet June 18 at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks to select the candidate.

“For these few weeks, those 351 central committee members will be more popular than they ever dreamed of,” Amodei said.

Amodei spoke earlier this morning at the Nevada Truck Driving Championship in Reno, where he spoke from the bed of a truck in blue jeans and an Army windbreaker.

Speaking to about 70 truck drivers, he stressed the trucking industry’s importance to Nevada.

“We get it,” he said.

Later, wearing a suit at the Republican women’s luncheon, he cast the race as a job interview. He said he would be the best person for the central committee to “hire” as their candidate because he has the most experience with the issues of the northern Nevada district.

Amodei served in the state Senate before leaving due to term limits.

“We need an advocate to lead us in CD2,” he said.

Brower spoke to the women’s group next, touting his extensive public service — he is a former Assemblyman and a former U.S. Attorney — and playing to the crowd.

“Women’s groups really are the backbone of this party,” he said.

State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, said he is the best candidate for the job, saying he's "in the trenches down here" at the Legislature everyday.

Brower, who was appointed to replace retiring Sen. Bill Raggio earlier this year, said he has the strongest conservative record.

“If I feel I am the best candidate for the job, I feel compelled to volunteer,” he said.

Lippold spoke last.

He stuck to familiar Republican mantras of personal responsibility and fiscal restraint while also highlighting his record on defense.

Breaking from the views of some Republicans, he said legislators need to scrutinize how money is spent at the Department of Defense.

“The Department of Defense is not working with the same efficiency and effectiveness as they used to,” he said.

During the next month, the candidates will have to convince central committee members that their personal traits, political philosophy and professional style should earn them the nomination.

“I don’t think anybody is going to come to you and say Obamacare is just right,” Amodei said. “We know what’s going on here.”

 

 

Vucanovich Says Amodei and Brower “Think They Are Kind of Untouchable” and Endorses Lippold in NV-2

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:46 pm May 18th, 2011

She knows all the players and had not planned to endorse anyone.

Considered by many to the the unofficial matriarch of the Republican Party in Nevada, former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich today said she changed her mind and sent a check to former U.S.S. Cole Commander and congressional candidate Kirk Lippold after hearing him speak at a Republican Women’s Club meeting last week.

“I sat next to him at lunch and then he did a presentation and answered questions,” said Vucanovich. “Afterwards, we sat and talked for a bit. I was impressed.”

After Lippold received the check, he called and asked Vucanovich for her endorsement. She readily agreed.

When queried about her choice not to endorse state GOP Chairman Mark Amodei or state Senator Greg Brower, both of whom she knows quite well, Vucanovich quipped, “They didn’t ask.”

Vucanovich said she has not heard from either Amodei or Brower in quite some time and added, “Maybe this isn’t a good word to use, but they think they are kind of untouchable.”

Vucanovich was no doubt echoing the voices of many grassroots, anti-establishment and/or Tea Party Republicans who are likely to reject Amodei and Brower in favor of a candidate they think will better represent their conservative values in Washington D.C.

Is Lippold that man?

“Yes,” said Vucanovich. “I think he is.”

As for her endorsement of former Tea Party darling Sharron Angle in last year’s U.S. Senate contest against Harry Reid, Vucanovich said she only agreed to endorse Angle after the candidate “backed down and cleaned up a little bit” on some issues and because it was “a completely different race.”

(Glancing back at a post, I was reminded who persuaded Vucanovich to sit down with Angle in the first place: Senator John Ensign.)

 

Ensign Says Good-Bye

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:55 am May 3rd, 2011

In case you missed it, Senator John Ensign yesterday made his final remarks on the floor of the United States Senate. Notable quotes follow, most of them coming near the end of the speech:

When I was first arrived in the Senate, I observed several people who were so caught up in their own importance and busyness that arrogance dripped from them; unfortunately, they were blind to it and everyone could see it but them. When one takes on a position of leadership, there is a very real danger of getting caught up in the hype surrounding that status. Often times, the more power and prestige a person achieves, the more arrogant a person can become. As easy as it was for me to view this in other people, I was blind to how arrogant and self-centered I had become; I did not recognize that I thought mostly of myself.

And:

I believe that had I learned this lesson earlier, I would have prevented myself from judging two of my colleagues when I had no place to do so. As Chairman of the NRSC, I was confronted with the personal issues facing Senators Larry Craig and Ted Stevens. Following Larry’s admission and Ted’s guilty verdict, I too deeply believed in the power of my leadership position and I called on both to resign. This has haunted me for years, and I have sincerely struggled with these decisions. So much so that I went to each of them after a few weeks and admitted that what I did was wrong, and I asked them for forgiveness. Each of these men was gracious enough to forgive me, even though publicly I did not show them that same grace; I am very grateful to them both. When I announced my personal failure two years ago, Larry was one of the first to call and express his support. I truly cannot tell you what that meant, and still means to me.

The purpose of me speaking about this is to humbly show that in life a person understands mercy a lot more when they need it and it is shown to them. Again, this is a hard lesson that I have learn, but I hope that I can now show mercy to people who come into my life and need it.

And:

To my Senate colleagues, I would like to take a moment to apologize for what you have each gone through as a result of my actions; I know that many of you were put in difficult situations because of me, and for that I sincerely apologize.

And:

My wife, Darlene, who has been through so much with me and has fought through so many struggles, is owed more than I could ever repay. I do not deserve a woman like her, but I love her and am so grateful that the Lord has put her in my life.

And:

Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank God for allowing me to be here. I have been encouraged by some not to mention God because it looks hypocritical because of my own failings, but I would argue that I have not mentioned Him enough. I am glad that the Lord not only forgives but likes when I give Him thanks. So Lord, thank you for all that you have done in my life. I hope I can do better in the future, and can learn to love You with all my heart, soul and strength, and to love others as myself.

My colleagues, I bid you farewell. Know that you’ll be in my prayers.

 

 

Secretary Of State Ross Miller Declares Special Election Open For All

By Andrew Doughman | 12:59 pm May 2nd, 2011

CARSON CITY — Secretary of State Ross Miller today announced that a special election for Nevada’s Congressional District Two will be open to all candidates.

“You might as well call this a ballot royale,” he said.

Miller’s decision allows for any candidate to be on the ballot for the Sept. 13 election. The state Republican party has favored an interpretation of state law that would allow state parties to pick a single candidate of their choice.

Miller’s decision is widely believed to benefit Democrats in a special election since an open ballot with many Republican candidates could split the vote, allowing a Democratic candidate to win in a congressional district that leans Republican.

Miller announced his decision at a press conference at the Legislature, where he framed his decision with this question about candidates:

“Are they picked by the people of the state of Nevada or instead by a small group of powerful political party officials?”

Miller said a free-for-all election is about the voters, not his affiliation with the Democratic party.

“Our entire system is based on a concept of being inclusive, one that’s open to all citizens,” Miller said.”This interpretation allows open ballot access, freedom for all to run and ultimately it lets the people decide. That electoral structure is as American as apple pie.”

Republicans, however, contend that Miller made a decision based on what would best suit Democratic candidates in the special election.

“Secretary Miller seems to have allowed partisan politics to direct his decision concerning how to conduct the special election in U.S. Congressional District 2,” said Cory Adair of the state Republican party. “The Nevada Republican Party stands firm that state law ensures major party central committees should be the nominating body for their own candidates in a special election.”

A special election became necessary after Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to the U.S. Senate to replace outgoing Republican Sen. John Ensign, who announced his resignation last month. Ensign made his farewell remarks today, and his resignation is effective tomorrow.

Sandoval announced Sept. 13 as the date of the special election, but it was up to Miller to clarify the law as it concerns who is eligible to run for the seat.

Lawsuits from both major political parties are pending and could alter the rules for the election.

Miller said today that any court decision would have to be made by July 15. Otherwise elections officials may not have time to issue ballots to overseas and military voters.

“The bottom line is, we won’t have a lot of time for this to be resolved in the courts,” he said.

A timeline provided by the Secretary of State provides for candidate filings, ballot printings and voter registration deadlines.

 

AUDIO CLIPS:

Ross Miller asks whether political parties or voters should choose candidates:

050211 Miller :12 “How are those candidates …”

Ross Miller says the process is “as American as apple pie.”

050211 Miller :12 “This interpretation allows open ballot …”

Reid: Senate Ethics Committee Must Release Ensign Findings

By Elizabeth Crum | 1:36 pm April 27th, 2011

As reported by Steve Tetrault, Senator Harry Reid said earlier today the Senate Ethics Committee is not only “obligated” to issue the findings from its 22-month investigation of Senator John Ensign but that it must also refer any potential criminal violations to the Department of Justice for their consideration.

Ensign will not be under the jurisdiction of the Senate as of his resignation on May 3, but his departure does not preclude the ethics panel from releasing information after he is gone.

 

Governor Sandoval Rebuffs Democrats’ Request For Public Hearings On Ensign Replacement

By Andrew Doughman | 3:57 pm April 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The answer from Gov. Brian Sandoval is no.

Today the governor’s senior adviser, Dale Erquiaga, rebuffed a proposal from state Democratic legislators to hold public hearings and a public review process in selecting a replacement for resigning U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.

“I think the law and tradition are clear, this is an executive decision,” Erquiaga said at a press briefing this afternoon. “We appreciate the Assembly’s and Senate’s advice, but it’s not relevant to the current decision.”

Erquiaga said the governor has just two criteria for an appointment: the appointee should have a political ideology similar to Ensign’s and be qualified enough to “start work right away.”

The governor should select an appointee to the U.S. Senate by the end of this week, Erquiaga said. That decision would come ahead of May 3, the day Ensign officially resigns.

Assembly Democrats today argued for a one week period to allow candidates to declare their intention to be considered to replace Ensign. Under their proposal there would be an additional one week period when the governor would hold public hearings equivalent to public job interviews for the candidates.

“A question of public importance requires, I think, an open and transparent debate,” said Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.

A similar vote in the Senate today provoked a party-line vote with Republicans arguing that both state law and the state’s constitution are clear that the governor should make an executive appointment.

Even one Senate Democrat seemed upset with the measure, which he said has “nothing to do with the work of this body.”

“We have so much to do,” said Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas. “Really that [measure] has nothing to do with what we should be doing here. … It sounds like the constitution is pretty clear the governor gets to make an appointment.”

Oceguera’s statement echoes the reasoning Democrats have used to debate the governor’s proposed general fund budget in large, public hearings. Erquiaga praised the Legislature for efforts to “obtain additional information and have an open discussion.” But he said not all decisions are matters of public debate.

“You can’t even compare them. The budget process is always done in committee … that’s the budgetary process, that’s not an executive appointment,” Erquiaga said.

Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Las Vegas, echoed Erquiaga in his call for the governor to follow precedent set in law and in Nevada tradition.

“I think we ought to keep the system that’s effective for both parties, Democrats and Republicans, since 1864,” Stewart said.

The Democrats proposal, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 8, seems to preempt a likely Sandoval appointment of current U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev. If Sandoval appoints Heller to the Senate, that would mean Heller’s seat would become vacant and a special election would have to be called to fill it.

“Any appointment that creates a vacancy in another office which necessitates a subsequent special election will cost Nevadans hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money at a time when severe cuts to education and essential services are under consideration,” the resolution states.

Secretary of State Ross Miller said this past weekend there are a number of costs associated with an election: printing up ballots, sending out ballots, securing locations for voting, programming voting machines and staffing the polling locations. He said, though, there is no “generic price tag” for an election.

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said that the public should have a chance to ask questions of potential appointees, suggesting a question seemingly designed for Heller.

“Should we spend tax money on a special election at a time when the governor has asked us for shared sacrifice? We’ll only know the answer to critical questions like this if they are asked,” he said.

Senate Republicans, however, reiterated Assembly Republicans’ comments that past governors have had no controversy in appointing replacements for resigning member of Congress.

 

John Ensign, Episode…Too Many

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:35 am April 22nd, 2011
With yesterday’s preemptive, hastily announced resignation, Senator John Ensign’s graceless fall from grace continued. Despite stating he is leaving office in order to spare his family and constituents any further stress, the timing — shortly after an Senate Ethics Committee quietly voted to continue their 22-month investigation, possibly via public hearings — made the cause of Ensign’s departure evident. The specter of the falling axe sent the senator scurrying for the exit when nothing else would.
 
Ensign thought — or at least fervently hoped — his decision not to seek a third term was the end of an ugly political affair birthed months after an almost inconceivable conception: a shocking and sordid personal affair with the wife of a dear friend and top aide, fertilized and fed by Ensign’s ego. The junior senator’s parents were not only complicit but participatory in the attempted cover up, issuing a series of “gift” checks to the Hamptons totaling $96,000. The Federal Elections Commission saw fit to take the Ensigns’ expanatory affidavit at face value and dismiss a Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) complaint regarding the payments.
  
But the saga may not be over, even yet. The sequel and (we can only hope) final episode is pending and tied to the fate Doug Hampton, former Ensign staffer and cuckhold, who now stands indicted on seven counts of illegal lobbying. Should Hampton produce damning evidence of Ensign ethics violations in his own legal defense, as he has hinted he may, the Department of Justice may take a second look at the senator.
 
In addition, even after Ensign vacates his seat on May 3, the Senate Ethics Committee may release some or all of the evidence it has gathered. This may also motivate the Justice Department to get off its legal duff and move forward with an investigation and possible indictment. Indeed, the committee’s statement yesterday hinted it was in possession of serious findings when it said the resignation of Nevada’s junior senator was “the appropriate decision”.
 
Many Nevadans disagree, believing Ensign’s so-called appropriate choice came far too long after his initial inappropriate act and subsequent machinations to be considered befitting behavior for a United States Senator. The time for doing the right and proper thing is long past, they say. Their disgraced native son–once on the probable short list for the vice presidency on a near-future national ticket–has done too little, too late.
 
It is said it is never too late for redemption, but Ensign’s resignation will be an unprecedented, indelible black mark on Nevada’s already tarnished political history books. It is a legacy the already embattled Battle Born State could do without.

DOJ Indicts Former Ensign Staffer Doug Hampton on Seven Counts

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:42 pm March 24th, 2011

Deep sighs of relief were heard all over Nevada when Senator John Ensign announced his decision not to run for reelection. Today the indictment of former Ensign staffer Doug Hampton will once again put many of the Silver State’s political players* on edge.

As reported by the AP and others, Hampton has been charged with illegally lobbying the senator’s staff on behalf of two companies for which he was working as a consultant.

Federal law prohibits former Senate aides from lobbying the Senate for one year after termination of employment.

Roll Call reports that Hampton is scheduled to be arraigned March 31 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Doug Hampton claimed in 2009 (first in a riveting interview on Ralston’s Face to Face and then on national television) that Ensign helped him find lobbying clients after he left the Senator’s office. Ensign has denied doing so.

When Hampton went public and effectively incriminated himself, he hinted he was in possession of more (read: damaging to Ensign) information than he was sharing. Presumably, that information will now be shared with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as Hampton seeks to defend himself.

If found guilty, Hampton could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

The Department of Justice last year served subpoenas on numerous Las Vegas businesses, seeking documentation about Ensign, Doug Hampton, and various staffers and political operatives.

That documentation showed companies being contacted by Ensign’s office about possible work opportunities for Hampton, as well as emails from Hampton explaining how he could help them.

Ensign escaped sanction by the FEC and prosecution by the DOJ, but he is still the subject of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation that started in the fall of 2009.

*Update: Ralston mentions, via Tweet, that key testimony could come from John Lopez, former Ensign chief of staff who is now with R&R Partners, and Mike Slanker, an ex-Ensign operative now heading up Dean Heller’s senate campaign.

 

Is the Sad State of Nevada Public Education a Deterrent for Relocating Companies?

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:01 pm March 23rd, 2011

Yes, definitely.

Or, not primarily.

Apparently the answer depends on which elected official you ask.

In remarks to the Nevada State Assembly, Senator John Ensign yesterday that companies avoid moving to Nevada because our schools are poor. Here are Ensign’s exact remarks:

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I speak with technology companies from all over the world. When I ask them why not choose Nevada as a place for your business to build, the answer is that our schools are just not good enough. They mention that the tax climate is desirable but tell me our K-12 system is inadequate.

Ensign also said Intuit executives conveyed to him in a recent dialogue that the sad state of Nevada’s public education system was a major deterrent to a move to Nevada.

But in an interview on Face to Face Monday, when asked whether companies have expressed hesitation to come to Nevada because of concerns over public education, Governor Brian Sandoval said he “has not heard that one.”

Transcript:

Ralston: There’s been a lot of discussion, as you know, about the disconnection between cutting higher education and diversifying the economy, getting economic development. I know you disagree with people who say you can’t do it. But be candid. You have talked about being more personal than any governor ever has been in trying to recruit businesses. You must be hearing concerns. Tell the truth here governor. When they talk to you, they have to be saying, “hey, you’re gutting your higher education system or you’re cutting. How can I have an assurance if I move my company there or if I move my employees there, there’s going to be a robust higher education system?”

Governor: Well, first you say to tell the truth would imply that I wasn’t before. But anyway…

Ralston: I mean be candid about these conversations.

Governor: And I’ll be candid about that.

Ralston: People, they must be showing concerns. And I don’t, I’m not suggesting–

Governor: No, no, and I know that.

Governor: My point is this: I have talked to many of these companies. Their top-line issue is the tax structure. That’s why they’re leaving California, because they’re being taxed, because they’re being over-regulated.

Ralston: But they’re not coming here. They’re not coming here yet. They’re not coming here because the higher education system and the lower education system … everybody agrees with it.

Governor: I have not heard that one.

Ralston: Oh come on.

Governor: Who is everyone?

Ralston: You have not heard … the business folks will say that. Education folks will say that. You have not heard once that businesses won’t move here because of the education system? Not once?

Governor: I have not heard that that is the reason why a company did not come here.

Ralston: Then what’s the reason? What possible … because we have a lower tax system than California and most neighboring states do. Do we not?

Governor: Most of the time it is because other states provide more incentives than the state of Nevada does, that provide them a bonus for coming there, or a deeper tax subsidies.

Ralston: Why can’t we provide those same level of incentives?

Governor: That’s one of the things I’m trying to do through my budget. I’m completely remaking the way economic development works in the state of Nevada. I want to create a catalyst fund that gives the state of Nevada the ability to provide the things that other states do.

Ralston: It does cost money, right?

Governor: It does.

Ralston: Tax incentives, you have to essentially, you might not like this verb, but bribe these folks with better deals than they can get elsewhere, right?

Governor: Well, not bribe, but part of it is this: they need relocation fees. Sometimes it does cost money to relocate your business. But over the long haul they recognize that our tax structure is much more beneficial. So New Mexico may throw a couple of million dollars at them upfront, but over ten years they’re going to save much more by coming to Nevada.

Ralston: So they’re mentioning the incentives more than the education system?

Governor: Yes.

After his speech to the Assembly, when asked why his conversations with corporations have revealed something so much different than Governor Sandoval’s, Ensign said, “I only know what’s been said to me.”

Ensign insisted he has spoken to “dozens” of companies who cite public education as their primary concern when considering relocation options.

Rep. Berkley “Taking The Pulse” In Reno As She Weighs Senate Bid

By Andrew Doughman | 2:02 pm February 1st, 2011

RENO — Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said she is “taking the pulse” of Reno this week as she considers a bid for Republican Sen. John Ensign’s seat in the 2012 election.

She told Sam Shad and Ray Hagar on Nevada NewsMakers today that she is raising campaign money, but she said the money is for her re-election bid in Congress. For now.

When asked when she plans to make her decision to run for Senate, she said “there’s no rush.”

“I’m taking my time, I’m meeting with people, I’m up here in Reno this week, just to touch bases with old friends, kind of taking the pulse of the people of Reno,” she said.

Last year, she said she’d make a decision before Valentine’s Day.

She had earlier told Jon Ralston on his Face to Face television program that she planned to announce a decision sometime during late spring or early summer of this year.

[CORRECTION: Shelley Berkley told Las Vegas Sun reporter Karoun Demirjioan that she would make a decision before Valentine's Day. The Nevada News Bureau had erroneously reported that she had told this to Jon Ralston.]

FEC Dismisses CREW Complaint Against Ensign

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:16 pm November 19th, 2010

Three days after Senator John Ensign announced that he plans to run for re-election in 2012 despite ongoing ethics investigations into his conduct, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has dismissed a watchdog group’s complaint against Ensign re: a $96,000 payment his parents made to the family of his former mistress, Cynthia Hampton.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) had contended in its compliant that the transfer of money amounted to an illegal political donation. The group is not happy that the FEC (according to the statement on the CREW website) “ignored evidence that the Hamptons themselves considered the payment to be severance, including Mr. Hampton’s contemporaneous notes from conversations he had in which he had referred to the payments as severance.”

The FEC based its decision on the fact that Sen. Ensign’s parents submitted affidavits stating they had intended the money as a gift, not as a severance payment.

Despite escaping sanction by the FEC, Ensign still needs to survive the investigations by the Senate ethics committee and Justice Department and overcome a shortage of campaign cash if he hopes to hold onto this seat for a third term.

IF Ensign runs — it is possible an indictment may yet force a resignation or change of heart — he will almost certainly find himself challenged in the GOP primary, possibly (among others) by Rep. Dean Heller who has not ruled out the option. Sharron Angle might also take a stab at it, having recently said she “can’t stop” believin’ running for office.

(Sidebar: If Angle does challenge Ensign, will he agree to play himself when it comes time for candidate debate preparation? I ask because earlier this week Jon Ralston found out that Ensign played the part of Harry Reid in order to help Angle prepare for her debate with the majority leader.)

(Sidebar 2: Steve Sebelius wondered whether Ensign’s active help for Angle effectively ended the long-standing non-aggression pact between Ensign and Reid. Good question.)

Ensign has repeatedly insisted that he broke no law or Senate rules, a contention in question ever since the New York Times obtained emails showing that Ensign appeared to help get Doug Hampton a job as a lobbyist after his affair with Cindy Hampton was discovered.

Ensign’s most recent federal campaign report showed he had spent over half million dollars on his legal defense and had about $280,000 cash on hand.

Harry Reid & John Ensign: All Good Things Must Come to an End

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:09 am July 8th, 2010

Ralston said in an early morning Flash that it’s likely the end of a beautiful friendship, and I quite agree.

And it’s all because of Sharron Angle.

You know how our good Senators Harry Reid and John Ensign have that decade-long gentleman’s agreement (aka non-aggression pact)(<— the photo there is worth the click-thru) not to go after one another?

This is surely the beginning of the end of that beautiful friendship.

You read that right, Dear Readers.

After calling Angle’s positions too “rigid” and declining to endorse her in June, Barbara Vucanovich, the godmother of the Nevada GOP, received a phone call from Senator Ensign. He proceeded to persuade her to meet with Angle to give her some feedback (i.e. that Angle ought to soften up her views).  As Vucanovich told Ralston:

“John said, ‘You need to tell her that. We need to defeat Harry Reid,’” Vucanovich told me…

Read the rest of Ralston’s story (good stuff, including some rather pointed remarks by our former senator about Angle), but the thrust of my post here is this:

No way, no how, is Harry Reid going to let this one slide.  I predict gloves off, Dear Readers.  Whether later this year when that ethics investigation heats up (wait for it in September/October) or when Ensign is running in 2012 (should he survive that long, which I doubt), there is going to be payback.  And how.

As an aside, all primary season we talked about whether Republican candidates in Nevada would or would not want the scandal-tainted John Ensign to “help” them (which might hurt them) during the general election.  Sharron Angle last year said she didn’t really relish the idea of assistance from Ensign, but then softened her position (she seems to be getting good at that) in a recent interview.

In this case, Angle got Ensign’s help whether she wanted it or not, and – ironically – it’s probably going to cost Ensign a lot more than it costs her.

More Calls for Ensign’s Resignation Trickle In

By Sean Whaley | 8:08 am April 11th, 2010

(Updated at 10:02 a.m. and again at 10:41 a.m. on April 11, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Despite being described as a “wounded” senator who has not been effective in representing Nevada in Washington, DC, state Republican officials and candidates surveyed by the Nevada News Bureau for the most part are still not calling on U.S. Senator John Ensign, R-Nev., to step down.

Ensign, under the cloud of an ethics investigation over whether he provided inappropriate and possibly illegal help to former administrative assistant Doug Hampton, was called upon to resign earlier this week by two former Clark County GOP officials. Ensign last year acknowledged having an affair with Hampton’s wife.

Among the few Republicans willing to call for Ensign’s resignation was Michael Roberson, candidate for Senate District 5.

“As a taxpayer and constituent, I have heard and read enough to join other Nevadans in calling for Senator Ensign to resign,” said Roberson. “His behavior shows a callous disregard for moral decency, the dignity of his office and for those of us who elected him.”

“I realize that some suggest that we should wait for the Senate Ethics Committee and U.S. Department of Justice investigations to conclude before making such a determination. However, through his own admitted actions, I do not believe Senator Ensign is worthy of the job he currently holds, and that he is in fact letting Nevadans down by continuing to fight for his job,” he said.

Roberson said that whether Senator Ensign is indicted or cleared is a legal matter and not his top concern.

“As an attorney and a member of the Nevada Bar, I certainly respect our legal system, and I believe Senator Ensign does deserve a full, fair and complete investigation,” he said. “However, the behavior he has shown and the decisions he has made make him an unsuitable representative for our state.”

“Our congressional delegation is weakened by this scandal – and therefore, so is our representation in Congress. Nevada taxpayers  deserve better. It is time for Senator Ensign to resign and allow a more suitable and effective Senator to replace him,” he said.

Ira Hansen, a Sparks resident running for Assembly District 32, also said he thinks Ensign should step down.

“I’ve been a big Ensign supporter from Day One,” he said. “I still think very highly of the guy. But I am extremely disappointed in his unfortunate personal behavior.”

“While it is true that Ensign is innocent until proven guilty,” Hansen said, “his violation of his family values positions by having an extramarital affair does justify asking him to step down.”

“Whether his resignation would be in the best interests of the state is a much bigger question,” he said. “It’s a tough call.”

Elizabeth Halseth, candidate for Senate District 9, also agrees it is time for Ensign to go.

“If you cannot lead effectively, there is limit to your success and the success of those you serve,” said Halseth.  “While I applaud Senator Ensign for the great things he has done for our state, I believe he has become ineffective and will ultimately harm our ability to grow.”

Halseth said she believes we need strong elected officials officials who can help Nevada get back on track.

“The people are our strength, and the people have lost faith in Senator Ensign’s ability to lead effectively,” said Halseth.  “For that reason, I believe it’s in the best interest of the people, the party and the state of Nevada that Senator Ensign resigns immediately.”

Calinit Atia, candidate for state Assembly District 22, said she believes elected officials must always put their constituents first and that it may be time for Ensign to consider stepping aside.

“I don’t know if what Dean Heller said is true, but if John Ensign has lost his effectiveness, then yes, I would say he should put the state’s interests before his own and step down,” said Atia.

“These are dark days for John Ensign and his family and the choices he needs to make are not easy, but they are choices that must be made,” she said.  “My heart goes out to his family.”

George Harris, a former chairman and former treasurer of the Clark County Republican party, re-iterated past statements calling for Ensign’s resignation.

“If Ensign continues to be a wasp in the GOP ointment, he will ultimately damage the prospects of those who come out of the primary election,” Harris said.  “The opposition will absolutely use this ethics scandal against all Republicans in the general election.”

“Ensign could save everyone a lot of embarrassment,” Harris said.  “The problem is, he has become the story.  The media and the Democrats are basically turning him into a clown, the longer this drags on and the more facts come to light.”

“From a strategic perspective, as the former head of the Republican Senatorial Committee, Ensign knows that if this was anyone else, he would be the first in line to tell them to resign,” said Harris. “We cannot have this kind of thing hanging over the party. Ensign should discontinue his selfish behavior and resign now.”

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., agreed in television interviews this week that Ensign is a “wounded” junior senator and that Nevada needs a stronger voice in Washington. But he stopped short of calling for Ensign to resign.

In a written statement to the Las Vegas Review Journal, U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian said, “After consideration of the news reports and Congressman Heller’s recent statements — which I take very seriously — I think the issue is that the people of Nevada need to know that Senator Ensign can represent them effectively.”

“I must respectfully say that as the potential Republican nominee, I do not expect to be campaigning with Senator Ensign this fall,” said Tarkanian.

Interviews with a number of other Nevada Republicans do reveal a general reluctance to call for Ensign’s resignation.  The general consensus is that Ensign has not yet been found guilty of any wrongdoing and that he will make the right decision for Nevada when the time comes.

Still, there is acknowledgment that Ensign’s troubles are creating problems for the Republican Party in Nevada because he can’t raise money for candidates or campaign on their behalf.

U.S. Senate John Chachas said, “Senator Ensign has suffered a great deal of personal and professional grief for some self-acknowledged lapses in judgment and behavior. Nevadans should not make sport of tap-dancing on someone’s misery.

“That said, elected officials need to be held to a higher standard. They have to be,” he added.  “I have served on boards of directors in business, and if a senior director had such issues, I would give him or her a nudge and suggest that moving on would be good for the company and shareholders.”

“But this is politics. The only ‘board’ is the electorate every six years. So in the interim, the only thing that matters is the good judgment of the individual,” said Chachas.  “I am confident Sen. Ensign will exercise good judgment for Nevada. His career and reputation are not the issue. The issue is Nevada, and I am confident he will do the right thing in that regard.”

Mike Montandon, gubernatorial candidate and the former mayor of North Las Vegas, said Ensign appears to be a liability for Republican candidates because they are clearly not seeking his endorsement.

But the issue of his resignation is a decision only Ensign can make, he said.

“I’m not going to call for anyone’s resignation,” Montandon said. “If someone in public office can’t make that decision for himself, then something is wrong.”

Montandon also noted that an Ensign resignation, should it occur, raises myriad political issues that could ripple across the state. Whether it would be better before or after the primary and how it might affect the re-election chances of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are just two of those issues, he said.

State Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said Ensign’s troubles are damaging to the GOP brand, but he added that the inquiries into his actions are still in progress.

“In America we have a system where you are innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “So in the absence of any clear criminal wrongdoing, it would presumptuous of me to be the judge, jury and executioner.”

Democrats are using Ensign’s troubles to their advantage, but ethics issues aren’t unknown to Democrats, Goedhart said. He pointed to New York Rep. Charles Rangel, who is facing an ethics probe of his own.

“Is it reducing Ensign’s effectiveness? Yes,” he said. “Am I calling on him to step down? No. Not unless he has been found guilty of criminal wrongdoing.”

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, a candidate for state Senate, said he believes Ensign will do what is best for the state.

“He has not been charged or convicted, so it is very premature for people to be calling his resignation,” he said.

Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, who is also running for an open state senate seat, said he has stayed out of the controversy but said a resignation could, “throw a monkey wrench into the elections.”

A resignation now would be poor timing, he said.

“We should wait and see what the investigations turn up,” Gustavson said. “Let it take its course. Until then I’m not suggesting we do anything different.”

U.S. Senate candidate Garn Mabey, a former member of the state Assembly, said he would agree with the description of Ensign as a “wounded” senator. But Mabey said he considers Ensign a friend who helped him win his first race for elective office.

“I’m not going to throw him under the bus,” he said.

Mabey said he does not believe Ensign’s troubles will affect other Nevada Republican candidates.

“I think he is a good man,” Mabey said. “It is a decision he has to make.”

U.S. Senate candidate and Assemblyman Chad Christensen said: “This has been an unfortunate situation all the way around. There are two basic issues here. If John Ensign did anything illegal he should resign, if not then voters should decide in 2012 if he should stay.”

Rob Lauer, a candidate for secretary of state, said he believes in loyalty and called Ensign “a great Republican.” It is up to Ensign to decide whether he can continue to be effective in Congress, he said.

“I like him personally,” Lauer said. “He has done a lot of good things for the state. But on a political level as a senator he has an obligation to the people of the state. If he can’t get bills through, if he is not effective for the state, he needs to do what is best for the state.”

Ensign’s troubles are an issue for Nevada Republicans because without them, he could raise money and help GOP candidates, Lauer said. Until the issues facing him are resolved, he can’t be an effective leader for Nevada Republicans, he said.

Craig Lake, candidate for Congressional District 1, declined to comment on the matter. Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge running for governor, also had no comment.

Patrick McNaught, candidate for Senate District 12, and Michelle Fiore, candidate for CD-1, could not be reached for comment. U.S. Senate candidates Sharron Angle also could not be reached.

John Ensign: It’s His Birthday, and He’ll Cry if He Wants To

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:22 am March 25th, 2010

You would cry, too, if it happened to you.

Yes, it’s Senator John Ensign’s (52nd) birthday today.  And yes, our junior senator is crying us a river.  In the form of complaining that he is a victim of “gotcha” journalism.

Yes, really.

When asked whether he’s been subpoenaed in the grand jury probe into his after-affair attempts at damage control  – some of which may have been slightly illegal – he rebuked the press for its coverage of the scandal (per Politico):

“Seeking of the truth should be not only part of the Justice Department and part of our judicial system, but also should be … a goal of reporters today,” Ensign said. “Unfortunately, too much of our press is … (1) biased or (2) just about ‘gotcha.’”

And:

“It’s just, I have a responsibility to do my job and, as part of this republic that we have, the fourth estate does too, and they’re both important roles,” he told POLITICO. “Unfortunately, some in my part don’t give it a good name. But some in your part don’t give it a good name, [and] it’s all of us trying to do our best. That’s all I’m trying to say.”

And also:

“Whether it’s Republican or Democrat, it’s about nailing somebody,” Ensign said. “So sometimes people look at something, and whether or not it’s true, they want to try to nail them on it.”

Ah, the melodramatic machinations of a once a rising star in the GOP galaxy.  There are few things more painful to watch than a graceless fall from grace.

I borrow from an email sent out this morning by the DSCC and and offer Ensign this birthday gift and a token of sympathy.  Behold, the world’s smallest violin:

Gibbons Will Ask Nevada Attorney General to Weigh in on Constitutionality of Reid Health Care Bill

By Sean Whaley | 4:47 pm December 23rd, 2009
CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons said today he will ask the state attorney general to review the health care legislation scheduled for a vote tomorrow in the U.S. Senate to determine if it violates the U.S. Constitution by forcing everyone to have health insurance.

Gibbons said governors in several states have asked their legal advisors to perform such a review. Earlier today, the bill survived a challenges by Republican Senators led by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., seeking an examination of the bill because of the constitutionality question on the health insurance mandate.

In addition to seeking the review, Gibbons continued to attack the measure pushed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for “handing out billions of dollars in taxpayer financed ‘inducements’ to muster the votes needed to pass his health care package.”

Gibbons also responded to a comment by Reid spokesman Jon Summers made earlier this week that he should read the legislation before criticizing it.

“We have read the bill and that’s exactly what troubles us,” Gibbons said. “Sen. Reid keeps saying his enticements to other senators to coerce them to support his bill are just compromise and politics as usual. But if any citizen used these tactics in day-to-day business deals, they would be led away in handcuffs and charged with bribery.”

Summers responded: “Jim Gibbons has made it very clear that his plan is to continue using taxpayer dollars to fund political hits on Sen. Reid by parroting the national Republican Party’s talking points.

“As the governor of a state with the second highest rate of uninsured in the country, this self-proclaimed fiscal conservative thinks it’s fine for taxpayers to foot the bill for people whose only option to see a doctor is in the emergency room.”

Summers also said: “Gibbons would rather 24,000 small businesses not receive the tax credit Sen. Reid included to help make it more affordable for them to provide insurance to their employees. And while Nevada families are scraping to get by, he thinks it’s better for them to miss out on a $1,600 savings on their insurance premiums.”

Gibbons said the Senate version of the health care legislation will cost state taxpayers $613 million over six years beginning in 2014 when a three-year federal payment to cover the cost of an increased Medicaid caseload goes away.

Gibbons said after a review of the legislation, “It is clear that many businesses will find it more profitable to pay a federal penalty and end the health insurance they provide to their employees. Those working families will be forced onto Nevada Medicaid. This, alone, will make the state Medicaid enrollment bulge beyond affordable capacity. This will also cut off health insurance many Nevadans presently enjoy.”