WASHINGTON — Sen. John Ensign's former mistress and her husband sought an $8.5 million settlement from the Nevada Republican before the affair became public, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a friend of Ensign, acted as an intermediary in negotiations last spring with the lawyer for Cynthia and Doug Hampton before Ensign publicly admitted the relationship with Mrs. Hampton, the Times said.
According to the newspaper, Coburn rejected as "ridiculous" the $8.5 million figure suggested by the Hamptons' attorney, Daniel J. Albregts. The amount was to cover the purchase of the couple's home in Nevada, lost wages and pain and suffering.
The Times said that the Hamptons' lawyer came back with a $2 million figure, which Coburn passed on to the senator, who flatly rejected it.
Both Hamptons worked for Ensign while the affair was taking place; Doug Hampton as the senator's administrative assistant and Cynthia Hampton as treasurer for two Ensign-controlled campaign committees.
Early last year, Coburn warned Ensign that if the affair did not end, Coburn would "go to Mitch," referring to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and tell him about the relationship.
The Times story raised questions about whether Doug Hampton lobbied Ensign and whether the senator facilitated the arrangement. Federal criminal law imposes a one-year ban on former congressional aides lobbying their ex-bosses or office colleagues.
After leaving his job working for Ensign, Hampton, in coordination with the senator and his staff, played a significant role in pushing the Washington agendas of NV Energy, the largest power company in Nevada, and Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based discount airline, the newspaper reported.
The Times said that after Doug Hampton discovered the affair, Ensign played a role in helping Hampton get work representing NV Energy and Allegiant Air. Ensign has a long record of assisting Allegiant and NV Energy.
According to the newspaper, Hampton spent the summer of 2008 strategizing on NV Energy with the senator's chief of staff, John Lopez, about how Ensign could intervene with the Interior Department to get an environmental assessment completed on a proposed NV Energy coal plant.
Following requests from Hampton, said the newspaper, Ensign called the secretary of transportation last year on behalf of Allegiant Air. Ensign also arranged for Hampton and his clients to meet the new transportation secretary in a successful effort to resolve a dispute with a competitor, the Times said.
On Thursday, Ensign's office responded to the Times story with an e-mail noting that it had previously been publicized that the senator helped Hampton get two jobs. Ensign's office did not reply to further questions.
Coburn's spokesman did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.