It sounds like John Ensign’s sex and lobbying scandal is taking a toll on the Nevada Republican’s effectiveness in the Senate.
One GOP aide told Politico: “Like Vitter, Ensign doesn’t get invited to a lot of press conferences because no one wants their boss in a photo op with them.” Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was identified in 2007 as a client of the DC Madam.
Another Republican Senate staffer said: “He’s been so isolated for so long that I almost forget he’s still here.”
Last week, the New York Times revealed emails suggesting that Ensign took a more active role in finding a lobbying job for his former top aide and close friend, Doug Hampton, than had previously been known. Ensign confessed last June to having an affair with Hampton’s wife, which led to the dismissal of both Hamptons from Ensign’s employ. The Justice Department is currently looking into whether Ensign’s assistance to Hampton violated lobbying rules, and whether a payment of almost $100,000 from Ensign’s parents to the Hamptons violated campaign-finance laws.
Chuck DeMuth, a former state GOP executive director told Politico that other Republicans need to further distance themselves from Ensign, or else Democrats will “wrap the John Ensign scandal around the Republican nominee’s neck.” DeMuth added: “He’s hurting the state of Nevada, and it’s dragging down Republicans up and down the ticket.”
Unnamed GOP senators also told Politico that until that probe is complete, “it will be hard for them to team up with him on legislation” — something that could further complicate any bid by Ensign to be re-elected in 2012.
The senator hasn’t yet said whether he intends to run again. But Nevada sources tell Politico that Ensign appears to be moving in that direction, encouraged by the credible re-election campaign that Nevada governor Jim Gibbons has mounted, even after numerous reports of extra-marital entanglements.