It's been a long time since we've heard the term "full-blown investigation" associated with anything done by the Senate or House ethics committees. But, word from Las Vegas is that one is underway in the case against Senator John Ensign. The local media is reporting that Senate Ethics Committee investigators have been in the state interviewing key witnesses, including Doug and Cindy Hampton:
Investigators seeking clues into whether Sen. John Ensign violated Senate ethics rules or federal law in an attempt to cover up an extramarital affair were in Las Vegas this week, an indication the case against the Nevada senator is gaining steam.
The investigators from the Senate Select Committee on Ethics interviewed several witnesses throughout the week to learn more about allegations that Ensign, R-Nev., used his status as a senator to help former aide Doug Hampton find work as a lobbyist, in possible violation of a "cooling off" provision for top Capitol Hill staffers. Hampton left Ensign's staff in April 2008 after discovering the affair between his wife, Cindy, and Ensign.
"This is a full-blown investigation," a source close to the investigation said. "The committee is using all of the resources at its disposal. They're trying to complete the investigation as quickly as possible."
The committee attorneys interviewed the Hamptons separately for several hours each, the source said. The interviews took place at the Las Vegas Marriott east of the Strip.
This may be one time that what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. But, we won't know that until the Senate Ethics Committee concludes its work. Just keep in mind that there's not a great track record of members of Congress policing themselves and their colleagues.
There have also been reports of a potential criminal indictment of Ensign.