Posts Tagged ‘scandal’

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:

NRSC Included in Subpoena re: Ensign

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:05 am March 18th, 2010

The train to Endsville is picking up steam.

The gist:  Politico reports that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been subpoenaed by the federal grand jury looking into the Ensign scandal.   The NRSC was asked to turn over docs re: Ensign’s tenure as NRSC chairman (2007-08).

Hat Tip:  Ralston

The Middle of the End of the End for John Ensign

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:14 am March 15th, 2010

The Ensign Affair has dragged on that long, Dear Readers.  We can’t rightfully call this the beginning of the end (that happened when Doug Hampton went on a media tour late last fall) nor even the middle of the end (I’d call that for the week the Senate ethics investigation was formally opened).  But we’re now nearly, almost certainly approaching the end of the end.  Or at least the midpoint.  We think.

And so, when on Face to Face with Ralston last week, I gave some free advice to Republican leadership regarding the John Ensign scandal and subsequent Senate ethics investigation:  since you didn’t convince Ensign to resign last year, you’d better get it handled and move through things quickly now in order to get the matter out of voters’ minds before you get too far into campaign season.

Why?  Because as political strategist Dan Hart agreed, the media is going to keep asking and writing about it and the Dems are going to persist in using it to bash the GOP for standing behind or remaining silent on Ensign until such time as he goes away.

Case in point:  this Politico story. And you can bet more like it are on deck.

As I said in my F2F analysis, based on the content of Hampton-Ensign emails revealed in the New York Times last week, there is almost certainly an indictment coming.  Or should be.  The missives show that Ensign was attempting to help Hampton line up lobbying clients, including arranging meetings, during a time Hampton was subject to a (one-year) ban from lobbying his senator.  And that’s a violation of federal lobbying laws.  For both of them.

So, yes, although a turn of plot could render me wrong, I think this dark Grimm’s fairytale of a story is now in its last pages.

E!!

P.S.  A quick note on something that is not being much talked about:  We’ve yet to hear from Cindy Hampton (remember Cindy?)  If at some point she chooses to purge herself and speak out about the affair and presumed pressures placed upon her in the aftermath, she could be the final nail in Ensign’s political casket even without an indictment.

Update: A blogger wonders why Big Media is ignoring the Ensign story.

Ensign Makes Top Ten

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:22 pm February 3rd, 2010

Senator John Ensign’s #2 spot on Judicial Watch’s “most corrupt politicians” list is notable:  he is the sole Republican.

I’m not endorsing JW nor their list (though Senator Ensign no doubt belongs there) and you should know that their About page says this:

Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach.

John Ensign’s Q4 2009 Legal Fees: $18,000

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:59 pm January 29th, 2010

Politico has a story on Ensign’s recent legal fees:

Sen. John Ensign’s legal expenses have jumped amid the fallout of his extramarital affair with a former staffer, according to new filings released Friday afternoon.

In the last quarter of 2009, the Nevada Republican dipped into his campaign account to pay nearly $18,000 in legal fees to the firm Fish & Richardson, where he had retained legal counsel. In the prior quarter, covering expenses between July 1 and Sept. 30, Ensign paid the firm just $850 for legal fees.

The disclosure suggests that Ensign could be facing growing scrutiny from federal authorities in the aftermath of his June revelation that he carried on an affair with former campaign aide Cynthia Hampton.

Ensign’s FEC report shows his campaign fundraising at a virtual standstill in the aftermath of the Hampton scandal.   Ensign has not definitively said whether he’ll run for reelection and reported raising just $4,700 in contributions last quarter.

He has just over $1 million in cash in his campaign account.

Hat Tip: e-mail alert from @RalstonFlash

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki Will Seek Reelection in 2010, Continues to Question Failed Prosecution by Attorney General

By Sean Whaley | 1:47 pm December 16th, 2009
CARSON CITY – Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, cleared earlier this month on charges that he mismanaged a college savings program while serving as state treasurer, said today he plans to run for reelection as lieutenant governor next year.

“It is absolutely my intention to run for reelection as lieutenant governor,” he said.

Krolicki announced his intentions during an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program.

During the interview, Krolicki said he will continue to press for an explanation from Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto on why she sought to prosecute him criminally in a case that he said never should have been pursued to begin with.

Krolicki said defending himself against what he called politically motivated charges over the past year has cost him “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Masto spokeswoman Edie Cartwright said she did not see the program and did not anticipate that there would be any comment from the attorney general’s office.

Krolicki was accused of violating the state budget act by misusing $6 million of a $3 billion college savings plan, but this issue was not even mentioned in the indictment, according to a ruling dismissing the four felony counts against him issued by a Clark County District Court judge earlier this month.

Masto then announced she would not appeal the ruling or seek a new indictment even though she believes Krolicki was guilty of criminal wrongdoing, citing limited resources in her office.

In the interview, Krolicki said the attorney general’s office was responsible for reviewing and approving the contracts that specified how the college savings funds were to be used. The attorney general also sits on the Board of Examiners and voted to approve the contracts, he said.

“We heeded their advice from the very beginning,” Krolicki said. “For the attorney general to turn around after negotiating and approving these contracts and say, ‘Oh, I don’t like that’ – how does a lawyer prosecute their own client for heeding their advice? That’s the one thing that I will never understand in all of this.”

Krolicki said that is why the case was dismissed for the first time earlier this year – because the attorney general‘s office was determined by a judge to be an “aider and abettor” in the way the funds were used as specified in the legal contracts.

The lesson should have been learned then and the case should not have been pursued at that time, he said.

Krolicki said Masto is more fortunate than he is with the ruling by the judge to dismiss the charges.

The facts that would have come out at trial would have, “embarrassed her so greatly that I think she got a great Christmas present, too, because now some of these just incredibly damaging things to the prosecution will not be known fully,” he said.

Krolicki said three of the top 10 college savings programs nationwide are in Nevada. They were created without taxpayer dollars and are helping over half a million families pay for college.

“We made a profit doing it, and it was balanced to the penny,” he said. “I’m proud of that. I don’t know what else to say.”

Many Nevada GOP Candidates Not Actively Seeking Campaign Help from Ensign

By Sean Whaley | 1:41 pm December 1st, 2009

(Updated at 1:55 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2009.)

CARSON CITY – If Nevada Republican candidates want embattled U.S. Sen. John Ensign to lend a hand to their election efforts in 2010, there aren’t many who are saying so at this point.

A survey of several of the GOP candidates and office holders seeking reelection turned up only one for certain: Gov. Jim Gibbons, who is facing a tough primary fight with Brian Sandoval.

When asked if he is seeking Ensign’s support, Dan Burns, a spokesman for Gibbons, said: “We welcome the support of any voter or elected official.”

The Sandoval camp had no comment on the query, which was made following an interview Ensign, R-Nev., gave on a Las Vegas radio station on Monday.

In the interview, Ensign was asked if he was a hindrance to GOP election efforts because of his acknowledgment earlier this year that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a staff member and possible related ethics violations.

Ensign said he does not believe he is a distraction for the Nevada GOP because a number of candidates have asked him to be involved in their political campaigns in the 2010 election cycle. He did not identify any by name.

Former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon, a third Republican in the governor’s race, said he has not sought out Ensign’s endorsement at this point in the race.

“Six months from now we’ll see what happens after a primary,” he said.

The campaigns of two other Republicans running for statewide office acknowledged meeting with Ensign, but added that an endorsement or campaign support request is premature.

Grant Hewitt, campaign manager for former state Sen. Joe Heck, who is running for the Congressional District 3 seat now held by Democrat Dina Titus, said Heck has talked to Ensign about his race.

“Both as a former representative of much of this Congressional district and as a U.S. Senator, (Ensign) has valuable knowledge about the people and dynamics of the district and has shared insight into how he was first elected in 1994,” Hewitt said.

James Fisfis, campaign director for Danny Tarkanian, who is in the crowded GOP field to take on U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tarkanian met with Ensign during his trip to Washington, DC, in September.

“He has not to my knowledge asked directly for (Ensign’s) support yet considering the GOP primary,” Fisfis said. “We will consider the question of asking for his support once we reach the general election. We don’t have any further comment.”

In a story in the Las Vegas Sun during that September visit however, Tarkanian is quoted as saying he would welcome Ensign’s support.

Former Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden, another U.S. Senate candidate, did not respond. She has voiced support for Ensign in interviews with various media.

Jerry Stacy, a spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, said Angle has no interest in getting Ensign’s support for her campaign against Reid.

Stewart Bybee, a spokesman for Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is running for reelection for his Congressional District 2 seat, said: “Congressman Heller will run for reelection on his record alone, just as he did last cycle.”

Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said she is not aware of any members of her caucus who are actively seeking Ensign’s support at this point. Gansert, the Assembly minority leader, said it is a bit early in the campaign for endorsements.

Chris Comfort, new chairman of the Nevada State Republican Party, said he is not aware of how many candidates may be seeking Ensign’s support but that any endorsements are not expected until after the June primary.

At that point, the state party would expect Ensign’s full support for all GOP candidates, he said.

Ensign has a voting record that is fairly consistent with conservative common sense principles, and it would make sense for candidates to seek him out, he said.

Comfort said he recently met with Ensign and that it was “very good, very productive,” although candidate endorsements were not part of the discussion.

“From a state party leadership position, we expect all of our elected officials to allow unfettered access to their resources so we can rebuild the state party,” he said.