WASHINGTON — E-mails turned over to the FBI and Senate ethics investigators provide new evidence about Sen. John Ensign's efforts to find lobbying work for the husband of his former mistress and could add to his legal problems, The New York Times reported.
Ensign, R-Nev., suggested that a Las Vegas development firm hire the husband, Douglas Hampton, after it had sought the senator's help on several energy projects in 2008, according to previously undisclosed e-mails and interviews with company executives, the Times reported on its Web site late Wednesday.
The newspaper said the e-mails are the first written records from Ensign documenting his efforts to find work for Hampton, a former top aide and close friend, after the senator had an affair with his wife, Cynthia Hampton, a former Ensign campaign staffer.
The Times said the messages appear to undercut the senator's assertion that he did not know the work might involve congressional lobbying, which could violate a federal ban on such activities by staff members for a year after leaving government.
The e-mail messages also hint at what Ensign's office now says was an effort by the Las Vegas firm, P2SA Equity, to improperly link Ensign's possible assistance to a promised donation, the Times said.
The FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee are investigating whether Ensign, in trying to contain the fallout from his affair with Hampton, conspired to find lobbying work for her husband after they left their jobs after the affair ended in 2008, despite the federal restrictions.
According to the e-mails, Ensign met in May 2008 with P2SA co-owner Greg Paulk, who has been a campaign contributor to the senator, and Bob Andrews, then P2SA's executive vice president. Andrews told the Times he sought Ensign's support for a biodiesel project to be built in Las Vegas and a possible land swap in Sloan, Nev., with the federal Bureau of Land Management for a solar power plant.
Ensign brought up the idea of P2SA's hiring Hampton, Andrews recalled.
The senator mentioned "that he might have somebody we should talk to who might be able to provide us with assistance in our biodiesel program," Andrews said. "I took this as a helpful hint."
In a follow-up e-mail message obtained by the FBI and Senate investigators, Andrews wrote to Ensign: "We are excited about the assistance that you and your staff may be able to give us in regards to the biodiesel and our properties south of Sloan."
Andrews added: "Give me the information regarding next week's fundraising and we will certainly attend. Thanks again."
P2SA ultimately decided not to hire Hampton.
Reached by The Associated Press by phone, Hampton lawyer Dan Albregts had no comment. The Justice Department also declined comment.
Ensign's spokeswoman, Rebecca Fisher, told the Times: "Sen. Ensign has stated clearly, he has not violated any law or Senate ethics rule."
In August 2008, Paulk donated $10,000 to a political action committee affiliated with Ensign and a half-dozen other politicians, the Times said.
Ensign's office returned $1,666 his share of the contribution in late 2008 after a staff member alerted him to the potential ethics problem.
In a statement late Wednesday, Fisher said the senator "not only returned the donation, but also informed the company that his office could not be of assistance in any capacity due to the connection of a fundraiser and legislative requests made by any employee of the company."