Joining a long line of elected officials facing serious ethical scandals, Nevada's John Ensign has established a legal defense fund. The "Ensign Legal Expense Trust Fund" will allow the Senator to collect funds specifically for the legal bills associated with his current ethics and criminal investigations:
Facing multiple ethics investigations on allegations of wrongdoing stemming from an extramarital affair, Sen. John Ensign has established a defense fund and will solicit donations to pay mounting legal bills.
Paperwork setting up the Ensign Legal Expense Trust Fund was filed Friday afternoon in the U.S. Senate, after being reviewed by the Senate Ethics Committee.
In the trust documents, Ensign said the funds raised would pay expenses in connection with ongoing investigations being conducted by the Ethics Committee and the Department of Justice.
The authorities are looking into allegations that Ensign, R-Nev., violated Senate rules and federal law in his admitted extramarital relationship, and in his dealings afterward with the woman and her husband.
Ensign, as a Senator, can accept contributions of up to $10,000 per year from individuals. (House members are limited to $5,000/year.) All contributions must be disclosed. Basically, Ensign can use this account to solicit money from others to pay for lawyers. What a deal, huh?
This isn't the only financial avenue available to members of Congress who want to pay their legal fees with other people's money. They can also use their campaign accounts and many do.
So, members of Congress who get themselves into trouble for ethical or illegal activities can have donors, including lobbyists, to pay their legal bills.