John Eric Ensign (born March 25, 1958) is an American veterinarian and former politician based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was a Congressman and United States Senator from Nevada, serving in the latter seat from January 2001 until May 2011. He resigned amid a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
He is a member of the Republican Party. He rose to chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, but resigned after six months on June 17, 2009 in the wake of the Senate Ethics Committee investigation. Ensign and his family returned to Las Vegas after his resignation from the U.S. Senate, where he renewed his practice as a veterinarian and works at Boca Park Animal Hospital.
Ensign was born in 1958 in Roseville, California, to Sharon Lee Cipriani, whose father was Italian; and a father whose surname was Mueller. John's father abandoned the family when he was four; John and his mother moved to Nevada. His mother later married Michael S. Ensign, a gaming industry executive; he formally adopted young John, who considers him his "real father." The senior Ensign later became chairman of the board of directors of Mandalay Resort Group,
John Ensign attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, becoming a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1981. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from 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.
In political campaigns, Ensign frequently referred to his ancestry, noting that he is one-eighth (1/8) Filipino. But, he has never met his Philippine-born paternal grandfather Mueller, who is of Filipino-German ancestry and may still be living. Ensign did not learn of this grandfather's ancestry until about 1994.
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.
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 and cover-up 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. The Senate Ethics Committee conducted a 22-month investigation of Ensign's activities. Before they released their report, on April 21, 2011 Ensign announced his resignation from office effective May 3. He said 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." The Committee gave its report to the Department of Justice for investigation of alleged serious violations of law.
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.
Ensign identifies as pro-life. The National Right to Life Committee and NARAL Pro-Choice America certify his pro-life voting record. Ensign authored the Child Custody Protection Act in 2003, which prohibits taking minors across State lines to circumvent laws in certain jurisdictions that require parents to be involved in abortion decisions by minors.
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.
In April 2008 Ensign voted against a measure to expand federal benefits to Filipino veterans in the Philippines, then a U.S. Commonwealth, against Japan during World War II. He said he thought benefits should be used for veterans in the United States. The measure passed Congress.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
According to The New York Times, during college at Colorado State, Ensign became a born-again Christian. He and his wife, Darlene, were active in the Promise Keepers, an evangelical group. He and his wife have three children.
Ensign is a member of the Pentecostal International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. He was the only Pentecostal in the Senate. While working in Washington, DC, he resided at the C Street Center, a religious house in the capital. 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 have parties keep quiet about it.
When in Las Vegas he attends a northwest Foursquare church. He is a member of the religious and political organization The Fellowship, described by evangelical Christians as one of the most politically well-connected fundamentalist organizations in the United States.
Between 2007 and 2008, Senator Ensign had an affair with Cynthia Hampton, who worked for a PAC supporting his campaigns. Her husband Doug Hampton was a close friend of Ensign and worked as a top administrative staffer in Ensign's Washington, DC office. The disclosure of the affair and Ensign's actions to keep it quiet, including finding other work for Doug Hampton as a lobbyist, resulted in 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 Ethics Committee referred their report to the Department of Justice for investigation of possible violations of law.
The Hamptons divorced and sold their house; Doug Hampton moved to California. In May 2012 he reportedly reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors on charges of illegal lobbying. In 2014 he expressed bitterness that he had lost so much, while Ensign had escaped prosecution.
Ensign and his family returned to Las Vegas. He returned to veterinary practice, establishing Boca Park Animal Hospital.
|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%|
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 2000, Independent American candidate Ernie Berghof received 2,540 votes; Citizens First candidate Bill Grutzmacher received 1,579 votes; No Vote Cast received 457 votes; and Over Vote received 69 votes.
** Nevada law since 1975 allows dissatisfied voters to vote for "None of These Candidates."
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.
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
The secret holder turned out to be Senator John Ensign, a Nevada Republican.
Ensign’s amendment would force groups petitioning the Senate Ethics Committee to disclose the identity of donors giving more than $5,000.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's 1st congressional district
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada
|Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
Kay Bailey Hutchison
|Chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee
|U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Nevada
Served alongside: Harry Reid