It sounds like the federal grand jury probe of the sex-and-lobbying scandal that ensnared Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) is getting hotter than a Las Vegas parking lot in July.
Two Justice Department investigators came to Sin City last week with subpoenas for six local business, reports a TV news station — part of what’s described as a “wide-ranging and deadly-serious criminal probe.”
According to the report, the subpoenas sought all available information on contacts between the businesses and Ensign, his top staffers, or Hampton.
The Feds are investigating whether Ensign violated lobbying rules by helping to set up former aide Doug Hampton as a lobbyist. Hampton’s departure from Ensign’s office was triggered by an affair between the senator and Hampton’s wife.
Hampton was hired by at least two Nevada companies with ties to Ensign, including a political consulting firm run by a former top Ensign staffer, Mike Slanker. But it appear that investigators want to know whether any other businesses were urged to hire Hampton, and whether they were promised any favors in return.
The news channel adds, in an ominous note:
The Washington grand jury wants all of the subpoenaed records by the end of this month, indicating the investigation is moving rapidly.
The report also adds an additional wrinkle. It notes that, around the time Hampton was looking for a job, a Nevada company, eCommLink, was looking for Ensign’s help in avoiding regulation. According to sources, Ensign told the company that donations to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which the senator chaired, would aid its cause. And eCommLink gave $28,000. But there’s no evidence offered that the issue of hiring Hampton ever came up.
Ensign continues to say he broke no laws.