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Ensign Paid Mistress' Family $96,000

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LAS VEGAS — The sex scandal engulfing Sen. John Ensign has deepened now that his former mistress's husband has revealed new details about the relationship, saying the Nevada Republican paid the woman more than $25,000 in severance when she stopped working for him.

Now, in a letter to Politico, Ensign's lawyer has revealed that the senator's parents gave a "gift" of nearly $100,000 to the family of Cindy Hampton out of his private funds.

In April 2008, Senator John Ensign's parents each made gifts to Doug Hampton, Cindy Hampton, and two of their children in the form of a check totaling $96,000. Each gift was limited to $12,000. The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts.

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.

Through a spokesman, Ensign has accused Doug Hampton of recently making "exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits."

Ensign's office has acknowledged helping Hampton get work once he left the Senate office, first as a consultant and then as a lobbyist for an airline run by an Ensign contributor.

Hampton said in the interview that attorneys for the men have been in negotiations over "millions" in possible payments from the senator. Ensign, through his spokesman, has refused to answer questions on whether any payments have been made.

Doug Hampton also worked for Ensign as a Senate aide. He claims his wife received the $25,000 payment as severance when she left her position in May 2008. Both men say the affair continued until August 2008.

Doug Hampton also provided a letter to the Las Vegas Sun that he claimed was a handwritten apology from Ensign to Cindy Hampton, a former treasurer for the senator's campaign committees.

"I used you for my own pleasure," the letter reads, later adding. "Plain and simple it was wrong; it was sin."

The letters, along with Doug Hampton's interview on Wednesday with a local television news show, mark another embarrassment for Ensign, a 51-year-old Christian conservative who abruptly came forward last month and confessed to the affair. In addition, a severance payment could pose campaign finance or ethics issues for him.

Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said in an e-mail that Hampton was consistently inaccurate in the statements he made on television.

Hampton learned of the affair between his friend the senator and his wife when he discovered an incriminating text message, he said on "Face to Face with Jon Ralston."

Hampton also detailed a February 2008 meeting in which he, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and others encouraged Ensign to end the affair, as well as the working relationship with the Hamptons. Hampton said Coburn and others tried to encourage Ensign to compensate the couple and help them relocate.

"These men were the ones that said, 'What we need to do is get Doug Hampton's home paid for, and we need to get Doug Hampton some money. We need to get his family to Colorado,'" Hampton said in the interview

John Hart, a spokesman for Coburn, would not comment directly on the specific advice that Coburn gave Ensign.

Coburn "did everything he could to encourage Senator Ensign to end his affair and to persuade Senator Ensign to repair the damage he had caused to his own marriage and the Hamptons marriage," Hart said.

Coburn himself lashed out at Hampton in response.

"John Ensign hasn't put me in a tough position at all," said Coburn, a housemate of Ensign's at a Capitol Hill home owned by a Christian fellowship. "The person that's deceiving now is Doug. And you all need to go do the investigation now on that side of it and quit asking us and ask what's the motivation here ...

"He is in error, and he's manipulating the situation and you are all buying it ... I was never present when a letter was written, never made any assessment of paying anybody anything. Those are untruths. Those are absolute untruths."

Doug Hampton said the men encouraged Ensign to write the letter of apology breaking it off. The senator later told his mistress to ignore the note, Hampton said.

In the Feb. 2008 letter posted on the newspaper's Web site, someone signing their name "John" says he takes "100 percent responsibility for my actions." "God never intended for us to do this. I walked away from Him and my relationship with Him has suffered terribly," the letter reads.

The two families are longtime friends. They both live in the upscale suburbs west of the Las Vegas Strip and their children attend the same school.

"Our children referred to him as uncle," Hampton said. "This is tragic."

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