Sen. John Ensign’s affair is moving from the politically damaging to the downright pathetic. Ensign’s lawyer has released a statement confirming that the $96,000 given to former aide and close family friend Cindy Hampton came from his parents.
The money was treated as non-taxable gifts to Cindy Hampton, her husband, Doug, and two of their children in April 2008 — conveying the maximum $12,000 under federal law. The motivation may not have been taxes but the need to report any gift over $12,000 — a potential embarrassment for the Senator.
In a statement, the family insisted ” After the senator told his parents about the affair, his parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others.”
It does not quite come off as generosity. Some have suggested that the husband Doug Hampton threatened to go public if he was got given money. Hampton himself alleges a cover-up.
It is still not clear if laws, or even ethics rules, were violated. There was a suggestion of $25,000 being “paid under the table” by Ensign. It is not clear if this money had to be declared for tax purposes. There has been no credible suggestion of the use of official duties or campaign funds thus far in the scandal. Of course, even without legal complications, the political complications may suffice.
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