By JOHN BRESNAHAN and MANU RAJU
Politico | 3/18/10
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking into the aftermath of Sen. John Ensign’s extramarital affair with a former staffer, adding a new political problem for GOP leaders in their response to the dual criminal and ethics probes of the Nevada Republican.
The NRSC was asked to turn over documents related to Ensign’s tenure as NRSC chairman. Ensign chaired the committee during the 2007-08 cycle.
NRSC officials declined to comment on the subpoena other than to confirm its existence.
“The NRSC has responded appropriately to questions concerning matters related to the 2008 election cycle timeframe," said Sean Cairncross, the NRSC's general counsel.
A Las Vegas TV station, KLAS, reported Wednesday night that at least a half-dozen Nevada businesses with ties to Ensign have received document subpoenas from the grand jury in Washington D.C. KLAS also said that federal agents, including a prosecutor from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity unit, are looking into allegations that Ensign offered to help a Nevada credit card company block new legislation in return for a $28,000 donation to the NRSC.
Ensign has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing or unethical behavior.
DOJ investigators are seeking information on John Lopez, Ensign’s former chief of staff, as well as Mike and Lindsay Slanker, Ensign’s top political advisors, and their consulting firm, November, Inc.; and Doug and Cindy Hampton, two former Ensign aides.
Ensign has been under fire since last June when he publicly acknowledged an extramarital affair with Cindy Hampton, his campaign treasurer and wife of Doug Hampton. Ensign helped Doug Hampton get lobbying work after the Hampton’s left the senator’s employment in April 2008 — includingby asking the Slankers to take him on at November Inc. Both Slankers worked for Ensign at the NRSC.
Ensign also solicited several Nevada companies to hire Hampton as a lobbyist. Ensign’s family gave $96,000 to the Hamptons, money that Ensign said was a gift and unrelated to the affair with Cindy Hampton. Doug Hampton eventually grew disillusioned over his arrangement with Ensign, hired a lawyer and sought millions of dollars from the Nevada Republican. Ensign refused to pay, and Hampton then attempted expose the senator’s relationship with Cindy Hampton by going to the press.
Ensign, though, pre-empted Hampton by going public with the affair himself last June. Since that time, Ensign has faced separate criminal and Senate Ethics Committee probes into his dealings with the Hamptons.