LAS VEGAS – Sen. John Ensign helped his mistress's husband get two jobs during the time the rising Republican senator acknowledges carrying on an extramarital affair, an Ensign spokesman said Thursday.
"Just as he has done for many other staff members, Senator Ensign made recommendation calls for Mr. Hampton," Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said in a statement. Mazzola was responding to questions about the employment of Doug Hampton, a former aide to the Nevada senator.
Ensign on Tuesday admitted having a nine-month affair with Doug Hampton's wife, Cindy, who also worked for the senator. Ensign's office has said that both Cindy and Doug Hampton left their jobs in May 2008, and the affair ended in August 2008.
In the months after leaving his post, Doug Hampton quickly landed two positions with companies connected to Ensign.
One, a consulting firm that ran Ensign's 2006 campaign, acknowledges the senator encouraged the company to hire Doug Hampton.
A Las-Vegas based airline whose executives have contributed money to the senator declined to comment on whether Ensign was involved in Doug Hampton's employment.
Doug Hampton's easy transition from the political to corporate worlds isn't unusual. It does, however, raise questions about to what extent Ensign used his influence to assist two former employees who could have done damage to his career.
Mazzola did not respond to requests for more detail on the senator's involvement.
A lawyer for the Hamptons declined to comment Thursday. The couple released a statement Wednesday criticizing Ensign's disclosure of the affair, saying they "did everything possible to keep this matter private."
Ensign's office disputed the account and said Doug Hampton had approached a television media organization.
On Thursday, Mike Slanker, a longtime Ensign campaign adviser, told The Associated Press that Ensign was "supportive" of plans to hire Doug Hampton through Slanker's government affairs firm, November Inc., in May 2008.
Slanker said he was not aware of Ensign's relationship with Cindy Hampton at the time. He said the senator did not pressure him to hire Doug Hampton.
"To be fair, (Ensign) was supportive, but there was no pressure," Slanker said.
Slanker said Doug Hampton worked for the company from May to August in 2008 and received some fees from a client in 2009. In the first four months of this year, Ensign paid the firm and its fundraising arm more than $52,000. Federal campaign records show Ensign made no payment to the firm from May 2008 to August 2008.
November Inc. issued a statement Thursday, saying, "No Ensign-related entity paid November Inc. for (Hampton's) services. Doug serviced new clients, but no existing clients of the firm ... he does not currently work for us, or have any affiliation with our company."
While at the firm, Doug Hampton secured a consulting contract with Allegiant Air, a small airline currently run by Las Vegas businessman Maurice Gallagher.
In August 2008, Allegiant Air hired Doug Hampton as the vice president for government affairs, according to Tyri Squyres, a company spokeswoman.
"He was hired based on his experience and credentials," she said. Squyres would not comment further on Hampton's employment and denied a request to interview Gallagher.
Gallagher has contributed to Democrats and Republicans in Nevada. He and his wife have given more than $20,000 in political contributions to Ensign and his related committee.
Allegiant Air executives based in Las Vegas have paid $14,300 to Ensign's campaign committee and to his political action committee.
Doug and Cindy Hampton's son, Brandon, also works for the airline, Squyres confirmed. She would not say how he got the job in the company's call center.
Brandon Hampton also previously worked for Ensign, the former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Records show the committee made twice-monthly payments, generally $500 apiece, to Brandon Hampton. The payments began in March of last year and ended in August, when Ensign's office says the affair ended.
Federal records also show that around the time of the affair, Cindy Hampton received a promotion and a pay raise at one political entity controlled by Ensign, as well as a pay raise at a second.
In a statement Thursday, Ensign's office said that Cindy Hampton received a pay increase at Battle Born PAC and Ensign for Senate at the time that she became responsible for direct mail and accounting. She worked for Ensign for Senate and Battle Born PAC in 2007 and 2008, the statement said. Combined, in 2007 she earned $1,885 a month.
In 2008, according to the senator's office, her pay from Ensign for Senate increased by $500 per month because Ensign for Senate had started direct mail campaigns. Her salary from Battle Born also increased because of additional responsibilities due to a transition with accounting and compliance, the statement said.