Opinion: What will it take for GOP candidates to call on Ensign to resign?



By Phoebe Sweet

LAS VEGAS–GOP Senate candidates Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian said last year that they would welcome embattled Sen. John Ensign’s support on the campaign trail. But now that Ensign is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly strong arming local businesses into hiring his mistress’ husband in violation of federal law and trading political favors for donations to Republican campaign engines, will GOPers still stand by their man?

KLAS Channel 8 News broke the story last night of subpoenas served on Las Vegas businesses over the last week for documents pertaining to Ensign, his mistress Cindy Hampton and Hampton’s husband Doug, Ensign’s former best friend and federal office chief of staff. Ensign may have secured Doug Hampton work in violation of a one-year ban on lobbying by former Senate staffers in exchange for the cuckold’s silence about the affair.

Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian and other GOP candidates have so far been silent about Ensign’s troubles, or have even spoken positively about the possibility of campaigning with the embattled senator.

Tarkanian said he would spurn Ensign’s help only if the senator’s legal and ethical troubles became “more serious,” adding that the FBI inquiry was certainly a sign that things were getting more serious.

Lowden, inexplicably, seems willing to stand by Ensign until he’s literally led away in an orange jumpsuit.

Brian Sandoval, Gov. Jim Gibbon’s Republican primary challenger, has also been mum on the issue, perhaps because campaign advisor Mike Slanker hired Doug Hampton after Ensign’s affair with Hampton’s wife. DOJ subpoenas issued last week and uncovered by KLAS demand all documents that pertain to Mike and Lindsey Slanker and their company November Inc. as well as John Ensign and the Hamptons. What will it take for Sandoval, whom Ensign took credit for drawing into the gubernatorial primary, to come clean on what his advisor’s role was in the Ensign scandal?

And how serious must the allegations get before Republicans call on Ensign to resign, or at least say they won’t hit the campaign trail with him this fall?

While Republicans running for office remained silent on the legal fallout from Ensign’s affair this week, the one person actually talking was Ensign. Ensign held a telephone town hall with constituents last night in which he spread untruths about efforts to reform the health insurance system. Unfortunately, he’s been unwilling to tell those same constituents the truth about his affair with an employee who was married to his best friend, his efforts to secure work for Doug Hampton and his parents’ $96,000 payment to the Hampton family in exchange for their silence.

“These GOP candidates have said it will take a ‘serious’ allegation to get them to disavow Sen. Ensign,” said Phoebe Sweet, communications director for the Nevada State Democratic Party. “It doesn’t get much more serious than a DOJ investigation and grand jury complete with subpoenas and allegations of political corruption, illegal lobbying and bribery.

“The longer Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian, Brian Sandoval and the rest of the GOP remain silent on Ensign’s political future–and even the future of their campaign plans with this corrupt senator–the more they condone his behavior. The citizens of this state deserve better than a senator who is too distracted by personal scandals and accusations of illegal behavior to serve their interests in Washington.”

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