Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Ensign Woes

No, it won't stop... "Ensign-gate" just gets weirder and weirder.

First to go were the interns.

Days after Republican Sen. John Ensign admitted an affair, e-mail from his office intercepted by The Washington Post asked if any others on the Hill had room for “some really great interns that want to relocate to another office.”

Last week Ensign announced a wholesale shake-up of his top staff.

Ensign’s chief of staff, John Lopez, is stepping down after spending much of his professional career with the senator, as is his communications director, Tory Mazzola.

Yes, even more Ensign staffers are headed for the hills! And who's to blame them? They know Johnny Casino's a political goner... Even if he doesn't.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure I know why more and more staffers are fleeing. Apparently, the scandaliciousness is getting even juicier!

Questions remain unanswered about the senator’s relationship with Cynthia Hampton, a campaign staffer when the affair started in late 2007. Her husband, Doug Hampton, was a top Ensign aide at the time. The affair ended in August 2008.

And new questions are emerging.

The latest is why Mazzola received a 50 percent salary increase during the six months from April 2008 to September 2008, about the time the Hamptons stopped working for the senator.

In April the senator’s parents paid $96,000 to the Hampton family — a payment Ensign’s attorney said is a gift but an ethics group wants investigated.

Senate records show Mazzola was paid nearly $35,000 for the half-year from spring to fall in 2007, and again for the six months from fall 2007 to spring 2008, according to legistorm.com.

But for April to September 2008, the spokesman’s pay shot up to nearly $53,000 without an overt change in job title.

Those familiar with Senate office pay structure said the sudden increase could have been for various reasons: New duties, accumulated vacation pay or a bonus. One-time bonuses, especially at the holidays or end of the fiscal year as this was, are common.

Salaries are set at the discretion of the office, so long as they do not exceed the senator’s pay.

During the next reporting period, from October 2008 to April 2009, Mazzola’s salary dropped to $45,000, or about 15 percent.

Ensign’s office on Monday declined to respond to questions about the salary boost.

So what's with all that extra money for Tory Mazzola? What was it, more hush money? Something else? Johnny has some (MORE!) explaining to do.

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