|United States Senator
January 3, 2001 – May 3, 2011
|Preceded by||Richard Bryan|
|Succeeded by||Dean Heller|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's 1st district
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 1999
|Preceded by||James Bilbray|
|Succeeded by||Shelley Berkley|
March 25, 1958 |
|Residence||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Alma mater||Oregon State University (B.S.)
Colorado State University (D.V.M.)
John Eric Ensign (born March 25, 1958) is a former United States Senator from Nevada, serving from January 2001 until he resigned amid an investigation of an ethics violation in May 2011. He is a member of the Republican Party and the former chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
Ensign renewed his practice as a veterinarian and works at West Flamingo Animal Hospital in Las Vegas.
Early life, education, and early career
Ensign was born in Roseville, California, to Sharon Lee Cipriani, whose father was Italian; and a father whose surname was Mueller. Ensign says that he is one eighth (1/8) Filipino, as his Philippine-born paternal grandfather was half-Filipino and half-German. His family moved to Nevada when he was a child. His mother remarried Michael S. Ensign, a gaming industry executive who subsequently became chairman of the board of directors of Mandalay Resort Group, and who formally adopted John.
Ensign attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, becoming a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and later graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1981. He went on to receive his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Colorado State University in 1985 and entered veterinary practice soon after. He became a successful businessman, opening a 24-hour animal hospital in Las Vegas. He owned two animal hospitals before entering politics.
House of Representatives
In 1994, Ensign won the Republican nomination for Nevada's 1st congressional district, based in Las Vegas. He trailed four-term incumbent Democrat James Bilbray by a wide margin for most of the campaign. Ensign gained considerable momentum after reports surfaced that a Bilbray aide stood to make a huge profit from lands legislation sponsored by Bilbray. Ensign won by 1,400 votes. He was reelected in 1996 by seven points, although the presidential candidate Bill Clinton carried the district by a large margin. It is often the case that votes for Congressional representatives are made differently than for presidential candidates.
Ensign won a Senate seat on his second try in 2000, defeating Democratic opponent Ed Bernstein by a 55%–40% margin, to succeed the retiring Democratic incumbent, Richard H. Bryan. Ensign was reelected in 2006; he defeated businessman Jack Carter.
Ensign and Reid developed a fairly good relationship, despite their bruising 1998 contest. They frequently worked together on Nevada issues.
In April 2009, Ensign was planning a June 1 trip to Iowa, the first in his career, causing speculation that he was mulling a presidential campaign in 2012. Given the disclosure of his extramarital affair in mid-June of that year, his presidential aspirations were put in limbo.
On July 14, 2009, Ensign announced his plan to run for re-election to his Nevada Senate seat in 2012, even though his polling numbers had recently decreased.
For Sharron Angle's debate with Harry Reid on October 14, 2010, Ensign played Reid during one day of her debate preparation at the Trump Plaza in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Sun speculated in November 2010 that this might hurt his relationship with Reid, who could "man up" and oppose Ensign's re-election. The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted in November 2010 that Ensign has multiple "hurdles" to re-election.
On March 7, 2011, Ensign said he would not seek reelection in 2012 because he wanted to spare his family from an "exceptionally ugly" campaign. "At this point in my life, I have to put my family first," Ensign told reporters at a news conference in Las Vegas. The announcement was welcomed by national Republicans. Republicans have suggested he would not have survived a primary election.
On April 21, 2011, Ensign announced his resignation from office effective May 3, stating that he "will not continue to subject my family, my constituents, or the Senate to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings."
- Committee on the Budget
- Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
- Committee on Finance
- Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Ensign was considered one of the Humane Society's biggest allies in Congress. Along with Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wa.), Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), Senator Ensign—a veterinarian—was a lead sponsor of the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which makes it a felony to transport animals across state lines for the purpose of fighting. According to a press release from Ensign's office, "Fifty states currently have laws against dogfighting and forty-nine have laws against cockfighting. This bill complements these state laws."
Senator Ensign was a member of the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus.
Ensign had been a leading voice against the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court ruling, and introduced a bill that would blunt the effects of the ruling. In Kelo, the Court ruled that local governments could use eminent domain not just for public use but for any project that involves a public purpose. Specifically, the Court permitted the City of New London, Connecticut, to force a homeowner to sell her home for new development. The decision that eminent domain could be used to issue a condemnation order on a property for a private purpose caused a backlash.
In 2005, Ensign introduced legislation to the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies. The commission would compile a list of what its members consider unnecessary, outdated, wasteful, or duplicative discretionary programs, and require Congress to vote up-or-down to eliminate all programs on the list. The proposal was similar to the process Congress uses for Base Realignment and Closure to assess military bases. It was not passed.
In 2011, Ensign introduced legislation that required all low-security prisoners to work 50 hours a week.
Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded. For those who say that the Constitution is so sacred that we cannot or should not adopt the Federal Marriage Amendment, I would simply point out that marriage, and the sanctity of that institution, predates the American Constitution and the founding of our nation.
He resigned in 2011 due to investigation of irregularities related to an extra-marital affair.
Ensign identifies as pro-life, and both the National Right to Life Committee and NARAL Pro-Choice America say that he has a pro-life voting record. Ensign authored the Child Custody Protection Act in 2003 that prohibits taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions.
Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
Ensign voted in support of authorizing the President to use the United States Armed Forces to "deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States." This is the authorizing legislation for the invasion of Afghanistan and removing the Taliban from power.
Ensign also voted in support of the President to use the United States Armed Forces "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" in order to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq." Ensign supported the counterinsurgency policy in Iraq in 2007 and opposed withdrawing troops from Iraq in 2007 and 2008.
Ensign opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy
Actions in the U.S. Senate
Chairmanship of National Republican Senatorial Committee
Ensign was elected Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). As chairman of the NRSC, Ensign was charged with assembling a staff to win back the U.S. Senate for Republicans in the 2008 elections. Ensign chose Mike Slanker and Lindsey Slanker of Nevada-based political consulting firm November Inc. to be the Political Director and Finance Director of the NRSC.
Electronic fund-raising reports
In September 2007, it was discovered that Ensign had used the secret hold rule to prevent a bill requiring senators to file fund-raising reports electronically from being voted on. He required that they first vote on his amendment to strengthen disclosure rules. (The "secret hold" is a parliamentary procedure within the Standing Rules of the Senate that allows one or more Senators to prevent a motion from reaching a vote on the Senate floor.) Ensign insisted that, before a vote on the disclosure bill could be held, the committee would first vote on an amendment that "would force groups petitioning the Senate Ethics Committee to disclose the identity of donors giving more than $5,000", which watchdog groups charged was intended to prevent passage of the bill.
2006 re-election campaign
Ensign faced Democrat Jack Carter, son of former President Jimmy Carter, in the November general election. Both he and Carter defeated token opposition in their August 15, 2006 primaries. Ensign defeated Carter in the general election on November 7, 2006, 55.36% to 40.99%.
Ensign is a member of the Pentecostal International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and was the only Pentecostal in the Senate. He resided at the influential C Street Center, a religious house in Washington, D.C. Ensign moved out of the C Street house in November 2009, after disclosure of an extramarital affair and reports that he used his influence to pressure several parties to keep quiet about it. When in Las Vegas he attends a northwest Foursquare church. According to The New York Times, during college at Colorado State, he became a born-again Christian and he and his wife, Darlene, were active in the Promise Keepers, an evangelical group.
He and his wife have three children.
He is a member of the religious and political organization The Fellowship, described by prominent evangelical Christians as one of the most politically well-connected fundamentalist organizations in the US.
Between 2007 and 2008 Senator Ensign had an affair with Cynthia Hampton. The disclosure of these events led to investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Election Commission, and the Senate. In late April 2011, Ensign announced that he would resign his office as Senator on May 3. In May 2011 the Senate panel referred the case to the Department of Justice.
|Year||Democrat||Votes||Pct||Republican||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct|
|1994||James H. Bilbray||72,333||48%||John Ensign||73,769||48%||Gary Wood||Libertarian||6,065||4%|
|1996||Bob Coffin||75,081||44%||John Ensign||86,472||50%||Ted Gunderson||Independent American||4,572||3%||James Dan||Libertarian||3,341||2%||Richard Eidson||Natural Law||3,127||2%|
|Year||Democrat||Votes||Pct||Republican||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Votes||Pct|
|1998||Harry Reid||208,621||48%||John Ensign||208,220||48%||Michael Cloud||Libertarian||8,129||2%||Michael E. Williams||Natural Law||2,781||1%||None of these *||8,113||2%|
|2000||Ed Bernstein||238,260||40%||John Ensign||330,687||55%||Kathryn Rusco||Green||10,286||2%||J. J. Johnson||Libertarian||5,395||1%||None of these *||11,503||2%||*|
|2006||Jack Carter||238,796||41%||John Ensign||322,501||55%||David K. Schumann||Independent American||7,774||1%||Brendan Trainor||Libertarian||5,269||1%||None of these *||8,232||1%|
** Nevada law since 1975 allows dissatisfied voters to vote for "None of These Candidates."
- List of federal political sex scandals in the United States
- List of state and local political sex scandals in the United States
- "Senator Ensign to Resign Amid Inquiry". The New York Times Caucus blog. April 21, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
- "From senators to animals: Lawmaker who fell from grace now working as a vet". CNN. February 20, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
- "Senators: Ensign". Ancestry.com. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
- Rafael, Dan (May 6, 2009). "My postfight sit-in with Pacquiao" (interview article). ESPN.com:Boxing. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved May 11, 2009. "Turns out Ensign is a huge boxing fan and one-eighth Filipino, so he was excited to meet Pacquiao and have him pose for a photo with him and his kids."
- "Ensign Commemorates Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month". Retrieved June 17, 2009.
- Tony Batt (April 30, 2008). "Ensign stands firm on vote: Senator opposed Filipino veterans benefits increase". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
- "Mandalay Details Spending, Share Buyback Program". Gambling Magazine. 2001.
- Herszenhorn, David M. (June 16, 2009). "Senator Ensign Admits Extramarital Affair". The New York Times Caucus blog. Retrieved June 16, 2009.
- Wasserman, David; Larry J. Sabato (October 5, 2006). "October Surprise! (And a Leadership Demise?)". Crystal Ball. University of Virginia Center for Politics. Retrieved June 22, 2009. "Nevada Rep. James Bilbray (D) was felled after it was revealed days before the election that his aide stood to profit millions from lands legislation he had sponsored"
- Nevada Secretary of State – 1998 US Senate Recount Results[dead link]
- Nevada Secretary of State – 2000 General Election Results[dead link]
- Freking, Kevin (June 17, 2009). "Sen. Ensign admits affair with ex-campaign staffer". The Guardian (London). Retrieved November 26, 2009.
- Cillizza, Chris (April 23, 2009). "John Ensign's Unapologetic Critique". Washington Post The Fix Blog.
- Ball, Molly (July 19, 2009). "New poll reveals Ensign's status sinking, But most Nevadans still say Republican senator should not resign". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
- Ralston, Jon (November 17, 2010). "Ensign played Reid in Angle debate prep; Angle once said dictators can have "good ideas"". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
- Tetreault, Steve (November 17, 2010). "Ensign faces hurdles running for third Senate term". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
- Memoli, Michael A.; Lisa Mascaro and Ashley Powers (March 7, 2011). "Nevada GOP Sen. John Ensign won't seek reelection". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 8, 2011..
- "Nevada senator, facing ethics probe, says he'll resign". MSNBC. April 21, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
- "Vegan in the Henhouse". The Washington Post. August 9, 2004.
- "Ensign Applauds Passage of Animal Fighting Bill". April 11, 2007. Archived from the original on April 22, 2011.
- "Kelo Anniversary Time to Take Action". June 22, 2006. Archived from the original on April 22, 2011.
- "2007 Senate Ratings Final". Retrieved April 27, 2012.
- Riedl, Brian M. (October 26, 2005). "An Innovative and Bold Budget Proposal in the Senate". The Heritage Foundation.
- Brown, Robbie (February 24, 2011). "Enlisting Prison Labor to Close Budget Caps". New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
- Batt, Tony (September 11, 1998). "Ensign urges Clinton to quit". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- "Ensign Defends Sanctity of Marriage on Senate Floor" (Press release). ensign.senate.gov. July 13, 2004. Archived from the original on April 22, 2011. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
- "Federal Legislation – Legislative Action Center". Capwiz.com. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
- H.R. 851
- Senate roll call vote on passage of S.J. Res. 23, September 14, 2001 (107th Congress, 1st Session).
- Senate roll call vote on passage of H.J.Res. 114, October 11, 2002 (107th Congress, 2nd Session).
- Senate roll call vote on passage of H.R. 3590, December 24, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session).
- Senate roll call on passage of H.R. 4872, March 25, 2010 (111th Congress, Second Session).
- "Senate passes ‘don’t ask,’ sends repeal to Obama". Tucsoncitizen.com. December 18, 2010. Retrieved April 22, 2011.[dead link]
- NYT Editorial staff (September 27, 2007). "Let the Sunshine In". New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2011. "The secret holder turned out to be Senator John Ensign, a Nevada Republican. "
- Schor, Elena (September 28, 2007). "Ensign vows to keep e-filing bill in limbo". The Hill. Retrieved April 25, 2011. "Ensign’s amendment would force groups petitioning the Senate Ethics Committee to disclose the identity of donors giving more than $5,000."
- "Election summary". 2006 Election Information. Nevada Secretary of State. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
- Roig-Franzia, Manuel (June 26, 2009). "Politicians' Scandals Elevate the Profile of a Spiritual Haven on C Street SE". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Hinz, Janet. "John Ensign Moves Out of Storied C Street House". Politicsdaily.com. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
- Morrison, Jane Ann (March 19, 2000). "Race opens for Bernstein, Ensign". Las-Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
- Belz, Emily; Pitts, Edward Lee (August 29, 2009). "All in the Family". World Magazine. Retrieved August 14, 2009.
- Sharlet, Jeff (2008). The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. HarperCollins. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-06-055979-3.
- Cristina silva (April 22, 2011). "Timing of Sen. Ensign Resignation Raises Questions". Associated Press. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- Kane, Paul; Leonnig, Carol D. (May 12, 2011). "Ethics Probe To Unveil Ensign Probe Findings In Senate Speeches". Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
- John Ensign for Senate official campaign site
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Biography, voting record, and interest group ratings at Project Vote Smart
- Congressional profile at GovTrack
- Congressional profile at OpenCongress
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Financial information (federal office) at OpenSecrets.org
- Staff salaries, trips and personal finance (federal office) at LegiStorm.com
- Issue positions and quotes at On the Issues
- Voting record at The Washington Post
- Appearances on C-SPAN programs
- Collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Collected news stories, blogs and videos from the Las Vegas Sun
- Profile at SourceWatch
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's 1st congressional district
|United States Senate|
|United States Senator (Class 1) from Nevada
Served alongside: Harry Reid
|Party political offices|
|Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
Kay Bailey Hutchison
|Chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee
|Republican Party nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada (Class 3)
|Republican Party nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada (Class 1)