Tom Coburn gets new scrutiny in Ensign scandal

May 13, 2011


Sen. Tom Coburn faces troubling new questions about his role in the extramarital affair of his former colleague, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), including allegations that the Oklahoma Republican may have not been completely candid when questioned by Senate investigators about the still unfolding scandal.

For Coburn, the Ensign case has been a confusing — and apparently unending — parade of contradictions involving personal friendship, loyalty, religion, and political self-preservation. Coburn has found himself making headlines he clearly never wanted, and now he is a recurring character in the shocking Senate Ethics Committee report that suggests Ensign and his parents may have broken federal laws on several fronts in their dealings with Cindy and Doug Hampton, Ensign’s former mistress and her husband.

On Thursday, Coburn wanted nothing to do with the Ensign matter, refusing to comment on the 75-page ethics report that was the result of a two-year investigation.

“I don’t have any comments on John Ensign,” Coburn told POLITICO. “I’ve talked about him about as much as I’m going to.”

But ethics watchdog groups, including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) — which filed the initial complaint with the Ethics Committee against Ensign — said Coburn still has some explaining to do.

CREW has filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee against Coburn in a bid to find out whether Coburn violated Senate rules when he became involved in negotiations between Ensign and the Hamptons over a potential multi-million-dollar payment from the senator once the affair with Cindy Hampton was over.

Coburn has downplayed his role in those discussions, but several witnesses told the Ethics Committee under oath that Coburn was heavily engaged in those ultimately fruitless talks.

“Contrary to Sen. Coburn’s previous public statements – and even his statements to the ethics committee during the investigation – the senator was centrally involved in the negotiations regarding restitution to the Hamptons,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, in a statement.

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