LAS VEGAS — Nevada Sen. John Ensign's admission of an extramarital affair has turned into something of a saga here, with his aides on Friday accusing the husband of his former mistress of trying to weasel money from the once-rising GOP star.
Tory Mazzola, an Ensign spokesman, said in an e-mail that the husband, Doug Hampton, had recently through an attorney made exorbitant demands for "cash and other financial benefits."
"Doug Hampton's outrageous demand was referred to Sen. Ensign's legal counsel, who is handling the matter going forward," Mazzola said.
Daniel Albregts, attorney for Doug and Cynthia Hampton, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Doug Hampton had unloaded his woes to Fox News in a distraught letter, in which he said that Ensign had "ruined our lives and careers and left my family in shambles" and that he yearned for "justice, help and restitution."
In essence, the former co-workers and golfing buddies are engaged in the kind of finger-pointing typical of a soured relationship -- only the accusations are more grave and the stakes far higher.
On Tuesday, the day after Fox received the letter, Ensign abruptly admitted to a months-long affair with aide Cynthia Hampton. On Wednesday he resigned as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, a top Senate leadership position, after critics branded him a hypocrite for chastising others for their indiscretions -- including then-President Clinton, whom he called on to resign -- and then indulging in his own.
In his letter, printed Friday by the Las Vegas Sun, Hampton described the Ensigns as "lifelong friends." Their homes are in the same tony section of town; their children attended the same schools. The senator eventually hired both Hamptons: Doug as his administrative assistant, Cynthia for his campaign and his political action committee.
The extramarital affair began in December 2007, both sides have said. In February 2008, Hampton's letter says, he confronted Ensign at the senator's Washington home in front of a group that included Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
The same month, Cynthia Hampton's salary doubled, federal records show, though Ensign's camp has said she took on additional duties.
"Senator Ensign's conduct and relentless pursuit of my wife led to our dismissal in April of 2008," Hampton's letter says. "I would like to say he stopped his heinous conduct and pursuit upon our leaving but . . . his actions did not subside until August of 2008."
In the months after the Hamptons left Ensign's office, Doug Hampton landed jobs with two companies closely tied to the senator: first a consulting firm and then Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air. Ensign made calls on Hampton's behalf, the Associated Press reported.
The Hamptons' 19-year-old son, Brandon, also worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Ensign chaired, from March 2008 to August 2008.
Still, Hampton's letter says, "we have lost significant income, suffered indescribable pain and emotional suffering."
In the letter, addressed to Fox News anchorwoman Megyn Kelly, dated June 11, Hampton says he has documents, phone records and witnesses to back up his claims. Tom Lowell, senior producer of the cable network's "America's Newsroom," said a show booker received the letter via e-mail on Monday.
"We followed up with him, but he seemed evasive and not credible, thus we didn't pursue it," Lowell told the Huffington Post. "We certainly weren't going to rush to air with accusations against a sitting senator without doing due diligence on the reputability of the claims."
Lowell denied that anyone at Fox News tipped off Ensign, who on Tuesday hurriedly flew from Washington to Las Vegas for a brief news conference.
"Our families were close," he told reporters. "That closeness put me into situations which led to my inappropriate behavior. We caused deep pain to both families and for that I am sorry."
On Friday, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas) told Politico.com that she was weighing whether to challenge the social and fiscal conservative in 2012. "I think his ability to represent the state and the people who call Nevada home has been compromised dramatically," she said, though she stopped short of calling for his resignation.
Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada at Reno, said he considered the "sex part" of the Ensign scandal over. "But if Hampton allegedly tried to extort a U.S. senator, he's either stupid or he's got something else to drop. And the longer this is in the public eye, the more damage is done to Ensign."