The sex scandal engulfing Sen. John Ensign deepened Wednesday after his former mistress' husband made new allegations about the relationship, saying the Nevada Republican paid the woman more than $25,000 in severance when she stopped working for him last year.
Doug Hampton made the accusation in a TV interview with Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston. He also provided the newspaper with an emotional letter purportedly from Ensign to Hampton's wife, Cynthia, calling the months-long relationship a "sin."
"I used you for my own pleasure," the letter reads, later adding, "Plain and simple it was wrong; it was sin."
The letter, which the Sun put on its website, and Doug Hampton's interview with Ralston marked another embarrassment for Ensign, 51, a Christian conservative who abruptly came forward last month and confessed to the affair.
A severance payment could pose campaign finance or ethics issues for the senator.
Ensign's spokesman, Tory Mazzola, told The Times by e-mail: "Sen. Ensign said Doug Hampton was consistently inaccurate in his statements" during the television interview.
Hampton also detailed a February 2008 meeting in which he, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and others encouraged Ensign to end the affair, as well as the working relationship with the Hamptons. Hampton said Coburn and others tried to encourage Ensign to compensate the couple and help them relocate.
A Coburn spokesman said the senator had tried to persuade Ensign to end the relationship, but he did not address Hampton's assertion that Coburn also encouraged Ensign to offer the couple a substantial amount of money.
Cynthia Hampton had been treasurer of the senator's campaign committees. Doug Hampton worked for Ensign as a Senate aide. He said his wife received the payment as severance when she left her position in May 2008. Both men said the affair continued until August.
The two families were longtime friends.
Ensign's office has acknowledged helping Doug Hampton get work once he left the Senate office. Through a spokesman, Ensign has accused him of recently making "exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits."
Campaign committee records do not show a large payment to Cynthia Hampton when she left her job. If the payment occurred, it could present a possible campaign finance disclosure violation, campaign finance attorney Kenneth Gross said.
The nature of the violation and penalty depends on "how the senator chooses to characterize the payment," he said -- as a gift or as income.