Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Coburn Defects from Budget Talks; Is the Ensign Scandal Too Much?

Tom Coburn, Oklahoma's ultra-conservative junior senator, has making headlines lately, though the news is not the kind that Coburn wants.

For those readers not up on the latest, Sen. Coburn has dropped out of the so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators trying to work out a deficit-reduction plan. 

There may be good reasons for Coburn bowing out, at least from his budget-chopping point of view. But the speculation is running toward a more interesting explanation—Coburn's role in the sex scandal of former Nevada Sen. John Ensign, Coburn's friend and a housemate at the now-infamous C Street house.
As the Senate Ethics Committee made clear in a report last week, Coburn tried to help Ensign do right by Doug Hampton, an Ensign aide and the husband of Ensign's girlfriend—who also worked for (that's right) Sen. Ensign.

None of this looks (or smells) good. All of which leads to this paragraph from today's New York Times:
[C]olleagues in recent days had wondered whether Mr. Coburn would withdraw after a report from the Senate Ethics Committee on the conduct of former Senator John Ensign of Nevada implicated Mr. Coburn, a friend of Mr. Ensign’s, for helping to arrange controversial payments to the husband of Mr. Ensign’s former mistress. One controversy was enough without inviting more by reaching a bipartisan budget deal, the thinking went.

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