Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released its 2011 list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians.” The members of the Senate on the list include:
Dishonorable Mentions for 2011 include:
Former Senator John Ensign (R-NV): John Ensign, former U.S. Senator from Nevada and former Chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, was forced to resign from office in May 2011 as the result of an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. In a scandal that first broke in 2009, Senator Ensign publicly admitted to an affair with the wife of long-time staffer Douglas Hampton. Ensign then allegedly tried to cover up the affair by bribing the couple with lucrative gifts and political favors.
According to The New York Times, after Hampton discovered the affair involving his wife Cynthia, the senator bought his silence by giving him “a strong boost into a lobbying career.” Ensign asked political backers to find Hampton a job. “Payments of $96,000 to the Hamptons also were made by Senator Ensign’s parents, who insist this was a gift, not hush money. Once a lobbying job was secured, Senator Ensign and his chief of staff continued to help Mr. Hampton, advocating his clients’ cases directly with federal agencies.”
These lobbying activities seemingly violated the law related to the Senate’s “cooling off” period for lobbyists. According to Senate rules, former Senate aides “may not lobby the Member for whom he worked or that Member’s staff for a period of one year after leaving [their] position.” Hampton began to lobby Ensign’s office immediately upon leaving his job on Capitol Hill.
In November 2010, the Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint that Ensign had violated campaign-finance laws, and in December, the Obama Department of Justice announced that it would file no criminal charges against the senator. Ensign, however, was unable to avoid the ongoing investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. In May 2011, the Senate Ethics Committee issued a devastating report that summarized the evidence against Ensign and made the extraordinary recommendation that the Justice Department reopen a criminal investigation.
Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC): Former Senator John Edwards, who was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2004 and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, was indicted on June 3, 2011 by a grand jury in North Carolina on six felony charges, attributable at least initially to the cover-up of an extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter, who had been hired as a filmmaker for his campaign. After years of lies denying the relationship, Edwards finally admitted to the affair in the summer of 2008 but continued to claim until January 2010 that a child conceived out of wedlock, Frances Quinn Hunter, was not his child.
According to campaign aide Andrew Young, Edwards had pleaded with him to claim that he, Young, was the father and not Edwards. ABC news reported that Young stated in an interview that Edwards asked him to “Get a doctor to fake the DNA results… and to steal a diaper from the baby so he could secretly do a DNA test to find out if this [was] indeed his child.”
As is so often the case when politicians get involved with sexual shenanigans, it is the cover-up, not necessarily the transgression, which now has Edwards in legal hot water. John Edwards is alleged to have diverted campaign funds for his personal use to hide the affair.
On May 25, The New York Times reported that the DOJ had conducted a two-year investigation into the use of more than $925,000 in political donations to hide the affair. Edwards was indicted on June 3, 2011. Should Edwards be convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined as much as $1.5 million. The trial date has been set for January 30, 2012.