What CREW Has Learned about the John Ensign Investigation

Ex-Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)

Of all of the public corruption investigations the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) closed without bringing charges, its investigation of former Senator John Ensign (R-NV) raises some of the most troubling questions. Although there appears to be a substantial record of criminal behavior by Sen. Ensign, including that assembled by the Senate Ethics Committee, DOJ declined to prosecute him, deciding instead to take action against his former top aide.  

After DOJ announced that Sen. Ensign would not be charged, CREW filed FOIA requests with the FBI, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (“EOUSA”), and the DOJ Criminal Division to uncover the details of the investigation and find out why the government had decided not to bring charges. Following administrative denials by these three DOJ components based on categorical withholdings of all documents on privacy grounds, CREW sued DOJ in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. As a result of decisions in similar cases brought by CREW recognizing a strong public interest in information regarding corruption by high-ranking government officials, DOJ backed off of its categorical denials and agreed to process responsive records. From the spring of 2014 through this fall, DOJ released thousands of pages from its Ensign investigation.

Despite redactions of hundreds of pages and passages, the documents offer new details about the 2009 revelation that Sen. Ensign had engaged in an affair with Cynthia Hampton, the wife of his best friend and former aide, Doug Hampton.  While Mr. Hampton was charged with and pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying in June 2012, remarkably Sen. Ensign never faced any criminal charges.

Read all of our findings below.

What CREW Learned About John Ensign

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