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John Ensign’s parental bailout
Was the $96,000 Ensign’s parents gave to his mistress a gift, a payoff, or a crime?
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aybe Sen. John Ensign was jealous that Mark Sanford stole his GOP sex-scandal spotlight, said Manu Raju in Politico. Ensign, through his lawyer, revealed Thursday that his parents had given his former mistress and aide, Cynthia Hampton, and her family a $96,000 “gift.” Ensign revealed this 2008 “payoff” a day after the husband, Doug Hampton, accused him on TV of paying Cynthia a legally suspect $25,000 severance package.

Ensign “weathered the initial bad press surrounding his affair,” said Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post, but having his millionaire casino-mogul dad bail him out for sleeping with a married staffer—or, as his lawyer said, making “gifts out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends”—just “may be too much.”

"Asking your parents to cough up $96,000 to cover up your indiscretions” is bad enough, said Hilzoy in Washington Monthly, but “asking them to violate the tax code and risk prison is a whole lot worse.” According to Ensign’s lawyer, one $96,000 check—if divided into eight “gifts” of $12,000 from each Ensign parent to Cynthia and Doug Hampton and two of their three kids—is exactly the amount you can give and not report it to the IRS. Hmmm.

“Gift. Severance. Whatever you call it, it was hush money,” said Michelle Malkin in her blog. And “it didn’t work.” But this “wretched dog” didn’t only hurt his wife and kids, the Hampton family, his state, and his party, he also “dragged through the mud” Tom Colburn (R, Okla.), his roommate, and “one of the Senate’s best and most upstanding members.” How much more damage is he willing to inflict on the Republican Party?

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