Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly is very excited to report the “Ensign scandal [has been] referred to Justice Dept for prosecution“:
The biggest scandal involving a sitting U.S. senator in 16 years has resulted in a bombshell: the Senate ethics committee believes Republican John Ensign committed crimes, and has referred the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution…
Specifically, in its letter (pdf) to Attorney General Eric Holder, the ethics committee’s members presented evidentiary materials showing Ensign “aided and abetted violations of the one-year post-employment contract restriction,” “conspired to violate that restriction,” “made false statements to the Federal Election Commission,” “violated campaign finance laws,” and “obstructed the Committee’s preliminary inquiry.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told reporters that Ensign, had he stayed in the Senate, would now be facing an expulsion vote…
To briefly recap for those who’ve forgotten — it’s always irked me that major media outlets almost completely ignored this story — Ensign’s humiliation came to public attention in June 2009, when we learned the conservative, “family-values” senator carried on a lengthy extra-marital relationship with one of his aides, who happened to be married to another one of his aides. Ensign’s parents tried to pay off the mistress’ family.
The scandal grew far worse when we learned that the GOP senator pushed his political and corporate allies to give lobbying contracts to his mistress’s husband. When Douglas and Cynthia Hampton left Ensign’s employ — because, you know, the senator was sleeping with Cynthia — Ensign allegedly took steps to help them make up the lost income, leaning on corporate associates to hire Douglas as a lobbyist, and ignoring ethics laws that restrict how quickly former aides can begin lobbying careers.
Maybe now the major media outlets who’ve ignored this story for years — I’m looking in your direction, Washington Post — will realize this is a big deal? I mean, really. How often does a senator get busted this severely in a scandal with such a broad scope?
The NYTimes primly headlines its story “Report Urges U.S. to Consider Charging Ensign”
Perhaps seeking to cover up the wrongdoing, staff members deleted incriminating e-mails, and the senator himself may have lied under oath to thwart a separate investigation by the Federal Election Commission, according to the bipartisan report…
The Senate Ethics Committee took the unusual step of releasing the results of its investigation into Mr. Ensign, even though it no longer has the power to punish him…
Mr. Ensign may also have violated federal law by asking his parents to make what the Ethics Committee believes was an illegal $96,000 severance payment to the Hamptons, the report said.
The Washington Post adds that “Criminal cases against senators are rare and difficult to prosecute… Legal experts said that the allegations against Ensign are not likely to lead to prison time and that many defendants are put on supervised probation or a few months in jail. Others pointed to a possible stiffer sentence if it is proved that Ensign intentionally gave false statements to the FEC during its review.”
So, I am not a lawyer, but some of you are: What are the chances of Ensign being prosecuted, given his resignation and the magical power of IOKIYAR? (The only person indicted so far seems to be Ensign’s ex-BFF, the guy he cuckolded, who’s accused of violating the one-year ban on lobbying by former legislative workers.)
And is there any hope, however slim, that Ensign’s cronies among the C Street conspirators … like Tom Coburn and Rick Santorum… might be required to use their Bible-study skills to expand upon the concept of ‘whited sepulchers‘ in a public forum?