(Mark Noonan) – The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) – a left-leaning group but with a basic honesty in what they report – digs up more Congressional dirt, and Ensign’s connection to it:
“Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., has filed a new complaint against members of Congress who live at the C Street House, charging they paid rent that is a fraction of the going rate, a violation of congressional gift rules.
That list includes Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign, who was named in an earlier ethics filing by CREW over his conduct in dismissing from his staff both the woman he was having an affair with and her husband.
The Justice Department also is reportedly looking into Ensign’s handling of that situation, including allegations he helped his mistress’ husband, Doug Hampton, get lobbying contracts and arranged a $95,000 payment to the Hamptons from his parents as part of their severance.”
It is entirely possible that Ensign wasn’t even directly aware that he was getting sweet heart rent – but that is not the point. What we have in Washington is a political class entirely divorced from the realities of day-to-day American life and this has bred a sense of entitlement in far too many of our Congressmen. If he knew it or didn’t doesn’t really matter – Ensign is once again tagged as a man who has lost touch.
Keep in mind that I voted for Ensign three times (his losing Senate bid as well as his two successful efforts). I am not inherently hostile. Additionally, as regards his marital infidelity, I forgive him for it – as much as that matters as I am not directly affected by it. But as I have urged in the past, I urge again, today: Senator Ensign must resign.
It is not that we can expect our political leaders to be sinless – but in 2010 when corruption is running rampant in government, it is time to insist that our political leaders at least set an example of honesty and good morals. The public perception of government is very much in the dumpster and that is not healthy in a democratic republic.
People need to have reasonable confidence that the people who run the show are honest and upright. Right now, the public default position on all politicians is that they are dishonest; that they all cheat; that they are all in it for themselves. The really bad news is that it might even be a majority of them are really like that – but minority or majority, we need to toughen up standards in DC just to get some respect back in government.
Senator Ensign has done some good for his nation – now he needs to do one more good thing: resign. Or, at the very least, announce he will not seek re-election in 2012.
This does not mean he’ll be forever barred from politics – it means he needs to go away and resolve his personal moral issues. Some years down the road, once all that is taken care of, he can present himself to the people, again, and explain what happened and what he did about it. At that, he might be returned to office – and perhaps to high office. The mere act of resigning his office because of his culpability will immediately raise his profile among thoughtful citizens – and earn him a debt of gratitude from a nation which would be refreshed to see a politician do the right thing.
If Ensign doesn’t quit, he’ll have to be forced out – a primary challenge will have to be mounted and the grass-roots will have to ensure party neutrality in such a contest. This, of course, would be a fight between Republicans such as we are having in the governor’s race in 2010. While it would be ideal for all office holders to draw a primary challenger, in the current state of politics, primary fights tend to weaken the party in question. Ensign clinging to office may only ensure that in 2012, a Democrat gets elected – a Democrat who would be opposed to whatever it is Ensign might wish to see in politics. A double-defeat.
I hope Ensign does to the right thing – and I hope that all politicians who are grafting one way or another will reflect carefully upon their actions. To betray a great nation and its people because you want to gain a little cash or have illicit sex is a horrible thing – but its never to late to repair the damage…and take that first reparative step in leaving office.