When U.S. Senator John Ensign resigned in disgrace from the US Senate, effective May 3, he left NV Energy up to its elbows in one of the sleaziest political soap operas in ages.
It all began when Ensign contacted NV Energy and asked CEO Michael Yackira to “hire” Ensign’s mistress’s husband, Doug Hampton. NV Energy, for reasons understood only by its executives, agreed to enable Ensign’s questionable behavior–and now Hampton has been indicted for lobbying on behalf of NV Energy.
But actually, the sordid tale begins earlier than that, when Hampton came to Washington in 2007 to serve as Ensign’s top administrative assistant. They were good buds, it seemed.
Then, late in 2007, Hampton learned that his wife, Cindy, a close friend of Ensign’s wife since high school, was having an affair with Ensign, who had given her a job as treasurer of his political operations.
Ensign struggled to cover up his philandering. You can see why he would want to keep Hampton quiet, considering the sordid mess that Ensign had created for himself. And you can almost admire how Ensign managed to convince his own parents to give Hampton’s family $96,000 as “severance” pay. And it’s obvious why Hampton, who didn’t want to work for Ensign anymore, would accept a well-paid gig as a lobbyist for NV Energy.
But it’s mighty hard to see why NV Energy’s Yackira would agree to the deal, considering that federal law prohibits senior Senate staffers from lobbying the Senate for a year after they leave their Capitol Hill jobs. Could it be that no one in the company’s stable of attorneys was familiar with federal law?
Now Hampton faces up to 35 years in prison for the seven counts against him handed down in the federal indictment, as well as a fine of up to $1.75 million. And Ensign, facing an ethics investigation from a Senate panel, has headed for the hills.
Hampton has said that both he and Ensign were fully aware of the lobbying rules and that they decided to work around them. Whatever that means.
Apparently they had a willing partner in NV Energy.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on April 22 said he will announce an appointment to replace Ensign before the senator’s resignation date of May 3.