Ensign’s Sin, Power, and No Consequences

In announcing that he wouldn’t seek reelection for his Senate, Nevada Republican John Ensign — best known for his efforts to pay off and arrange a lobbying job for Doug Hampton, his best friend and aide whose wife he’d had an affair with — said “there are consequences to sin.” He’s nonetheless confident that “God has forgiven me, and so has my wife.” The announcement comes as the Senate Ethics Committee ramps up its investigation, even though the Justice Department concluded its probe without pressing charges.

Sin: Ensign had an affair with his best friend’s wife, and paid him hush money. Sin: his friends at C Street helped. Sin, yes. But consequences? What are they?

In his book, C Street, Jeff Sharlet described the nature not just of Ensign’s sin, but that of others who helped him:

Did the senator, with the help of C Street, try to bribe his way out of a scandal? If he did, it seems doubtful that he had any sense of moral transgression. Certainly the C Street brothers who helped negotiate payments made to Ensign’s mistress and her family are not so afflicted. The sin in their eyes was the sex; everything else, the money and the cover-up, was for love, that of brother for brother. Democracy, they believe, pales by comparison.