Hampton appeared at a pre-trial hearing in Washington, D.C. on Friday, his trip provided by the U.S. Marshals Service because he was financially unable to pay his own way, according to court records. He’s due back in court on Sept. 5, with a trial likely in the fall.
Hampton’s role in the Ensign debacle is at this point well know. He left Ensign’s office in 2008 after learning the Senator had carried on an affair with his wife Cynthia Hampton. Hampton allegedly soon started lobbying Ensign’s office in violation of the law. A Senate Ethics Committee report found there was “Substantial Credible Evidence That Senator Ensign Conspired to Violate, and Aided and Abetted” Hampton’s alleged violations of the ban. Ensign resigned in April, just before the report was released.
Melanie Sloan, director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told TPM after the hearing that she saw no signs that Hampton was cooperating with the feds in a potential case against his former boss on allegations that a $96,000 “gift” from his parents violated campaign finance rules. While the Justice Department had initially declined to prosecute Ensign, they were reevaluating their stance based upon new evidence presented by the Senate Ethics Committee. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the status of the federal investigation into Ensign on Thursday.
Hampton declined an interview after his hearing (“Not with these guys around,” he quipped, referring to his public defenders) but seemed in good spirits, laughing about how reporters getting on the elevator with him dampened the mood.
He’s been a little less covert in recent weeks, chatting with a Nevada reporter about why he thinks former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) isn’t qualified for the Republican presidential nomination because he allegedly warned Ensign that news of his affair was about to break.
“If Santorum was true to his values, why didn’t he ask Ensign to step down and why hasn’t he been more forthright on his reasons for doing what he did?” Hampton told the Las Vegas Sun in an interview earlier this month. “If you are a family-values guy, a straight-shooter, there is no reason for you not to address poignantly, truthfully and honestly your position and what you did. End of discussion.”
“I begged Rick to talk to me first,” Hampton said. “I told him, ‘You don’t understand what I’ve done to try and help this man understand what he has done. You’re a good friend, maybe you could go talk to him.’ ”