Coburn: Ethics report 'inaccurate' in Ensign case

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Posted: May 26, 2011 5:56 PM
Coburn: Ethics report 'inaccurate' in Ensign case

Sen. Tom Coburn on Thursday decried as "totally inaccurate" an account by the Senate ethics panel of his role in negotiations involving disgraced colleague Sen. John Ensign and the husband of the woman with whom Ensign was having an affair.

Coburn said an account by another key witness _ who said Coburn took an active role in negotiations between Ensign and former aide Doug Hampton over relocating Hampton and a potential payout _ "is not an accurate reflection of what happened."

In an interview taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakers, Coburn said he was proud of the role he played in helping break off the affair between Ensign and Hampton's wife Cynthia.

"What I did I would do exactly the same way again," Coburn said. "And there's nothing unethical in what we did."

In 2008, Hampton received a $96,000 gift from Ensign's parents, and the Ethics Committee report casts Coburn as participating in subsequent, unsuccessful negotiations in May 2009 over a far larger amount.

Earlier this year, Coburn testified to the Ethics Committee that he told Hampton's attorney, Daniel Albregts, last year that he was not "the negotiator" and that he would just pass information on to Ensign. The report also says Albregts initially asked for an $8 million payment and Coburn called the figure "absolutely ridiculous."

"I got a call from Hampton one day who said, `Would you communicate a message to John,'" Coburn said Thursday. "And I said, `I don't know, I'll call John and ask him if he wants me too.' I called John Ensign and I said, `Do you want me to?' He said "yeah.'

"And so the story that you hear is not an accurate reflection of what happened."

The panel says Hampton's attorney "testified that Senator Coburn took an active role in the negotiations ... and this role included proposing specific resolutions."

Coburn's comments were the first he's made publicly since the ethics report came out two weeks ago.

Ensign quit the Senate May 3, one day before he was to have testified under oath about the affair with the Cynthia Hampton, Doug Hampton's subsequent lobbying of Ensign's office, and the payment from Ensign's parents.

An ethics watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee seeking a probe into Coburn's role in the negotiations.

Coburn said the ethics panel hasn't contacted him about the watchdog group's complaint.

"I have no worries," Coburn said.

An Ethics Committee spokesman declined comment.