Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) will have to answer some questions this week about his role in the criminal scandal that resulted in the resignation of Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) earlier this month. Questions about whether Coburn received immunity are swirling around Washington. If he did receive immunity, what laws did he break in his effort to conceal the truth about Ensign? Is Coburn one immunity agreement different from a convicted criminal? If so, is he fit to continue to serve in the Senate? These are only a few of the questions have have come to the surface over the past several days as more details are released about the (now criminal) investigation of Ensign.
Coburn shared a home with Ensign in Washington and was one of his most intimate friends. It is reported that he repeatedly tried to convince Ensign to end the affair.
According to a Senate Ethics Committee report released last week, Coburn acted as an intermediary to come up with a financial arrangement between Doug Hampton and Ensign.
Coburn is quoted as calling one offer from Hampton attorney Daniel Albregts “absolutely ridiculous” and a subsequent one “fair.”
During a November 2009 interview on ABC News, Coburn said there was “no negotiation” while acknowledging he was involved in the discussions.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed the complaint against Ensign that triggered the ethics probe, is now calling on the panel to investigate Coburn.
It is worth noting that the ethics report did not conclude that Coburn did anything wrong or admonish him. However, there are some unanswered questions.
According to the report, five witnesses threatened to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights, and the Ethics panel later obtained immunity orders “for certain witnesses.” Was Coburn one of them?
Does Coburn dispute any of the assertions in the report? Does Coburn regret anything he did for Ensign?
Coburn has so far declined to comment to reporters, even to media outlets in Oklahoma.
Ensign Ethics Report Expands on Sen. Coburn’s Involvement (By Jim Myers – Tulsa World)
WASHINGTON – A U.S. Senate ethics report provided additional details Thursday about Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn’s activities in response to another senator’s extramarital affair. In addition to releasing the lengthy report, the Senate Committee on Ethics also referred information to the U.S. Department of Justice arising from its 22-month preliminary inquiry into allegations that now-former Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., violated federal law.
Those possible violations include making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and obstructing the Senate committee’s inquiry. Some of the information involving Coburn’s role in trying to end the affair between Ensign and Cynthia Hampton, his campaign treasurer who also was the wife of one of Ensign’s top aides in the Senate, had been reported previously.
That included confrontational meetings about the affair at a house where both Coburn and Ensign once lived with other lawmakers. According to the report, however, Coburn and others involved in trying to persuade Ensign to stop the affair did not agree on specific details of that effort.
One Ensign friend and confidant decided that Coburn was not “big enough” to convince Ensign to stop, and that the effort needed to include Ensign’s father. That friend offered “detailed and specific recollection” that a call between Coburn and Ensign’s father, Michael Ensign, “absolutely” occurred, according to the report.
“Senator Coburn denied speaking with Michael Ensign after he was informed about the affair,” the report states.
“Michael Ensign did not recall whether a call with Senator Coburn had taken place, but in response to a question from the Special Counsel, Michael Ensign allowed as how the call may have taken place,” it continues.
Regarding whether money should be involved in helping the Hampton family start over, possibly even in another state, the report says Coburn testified that he told an attorney for Cynthia Hampton’s husband, Doug Hampton, that he was not “the negotiator” and that he did not propose any resolution.
Hampton’s attorney testified that Coburn took an active role in the negotiations between Hampton and Ensign, and that the role included proposing specific resolutions. On May 22, 2009, the report states, Hampton’s attorney spoke with Coburn on three occasions. In addition to the letter to the Department of Justice, the Senate committee sent another referral letter to the Federal Election Commission, stating that Ensign and others might have violated laws under that agency’s jurisdiction. The report refers to evidence concerning false or misleading statements Ensign and his parents may have made to the FEC regarding a $96,000 payment to the Hampton family.
To follow the developing story about what Senator Coburn’s role was in the Ensign criminal case, we would suggest checking out the Tulsa World.