AP source: Ex-Ensign aide to admit misdemeanor

An aide to former Republican Sen. John Ensign is expected to plead guilty Thursday in U.S. district court to a misdemeanor violation of a federal lobbying law, according to a person close to the case.

Doug Hampton left his job as Ensign's administrative assistant four years ago after discovering Ensign, R-Nev., had been having an affair with his wife. Federal prosecutors alleged Hampton then began lobbying the senator's office on behalf of Nevada-based clients in violation of the yearlong ban on former employees lobbying the Senate.

The person close to the case said sentencing guidelines for the misdemeanor call for up to six months of jail time and could include probation. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the plea agreement has not yet been approved by the court.

Prosecutors had charged Hampton with seven felony counts of violating the one-year lobbying ban.

Ensign resigned last year as the Senate Ethics Committee was concluding its investigation of the senator's conduct as he sought to conceal the affair. The committee issued a scathing report that called for investigations from the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission. The source said that Hampton's cooperation in other investigations is not part of the plea agreement, and when pressed on whether Hampton was cooperating in any investigations, the source declined to confirm or deny.

Ensign apologized for his conduct while serving in the Senate, but he and his attorneys consistently rejected the notion that he violated any laws or Senate rules. Ensign has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

The report from the Senate Ethics Committee said Ensign had conspired to violate the lobbying restriction for staffers and that he had aided and abetted Hampton's violations of the prohibition.

Beyond those conclusions, the committee said Ensign deleted documents and files after he knew they were likely to be subject of legal proceedings.

Hampton was not immediately reachable for comment.