The story of Sen. John Ensign’s affair with a former staffer took a new twist Thursday with the revelation by Ensign that his parents gave the woman’s family $96,000 as a gift.
A statement released on Ensign’s behalf by his lawyer, Paul Coggins, said a check totaling $96,000 from both of Ensign’s parents was given to Cindy Hampton, her husband, Doug, and two of their children in April 2008. It described the money as two separate gifts to each family member. “Each gift was limited to $12,000,” the statement said. “The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts.” Under U.S. tax laws, gifts of up to $12,000 are tax-exempt. According to the statement, Ensign’s parents learned of the affair from their son and decided to make the gifts “out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time.”
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Doug Hampton was Ensign’s administrative assistant and Cindy Hampton worked on his election campaign when the affair occurred. Ensign and his family were longtime friends with the Hamptons. Ensign, a Republican from Nevada, announced the affair in June, more than a year after the check was given. Prior to the announcement, he was considered a possible Republican presidential candidate for 2012, and it is unclear if the affair has derailed his chances.