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Ensign of Nevada No Longer Target of Justice Department Probe

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Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada is no longer the target of a U.S. Justice Department investigation that stemmed from his extramarital affair with a former campaign aide, his lawyer said.

“The Department of Justice has informed us that Senator Ensign is no longer a target of its investigation and that it has no plans to bring any charges against him in this matter,” Ensign’s lawyer, Paul Coggins, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Senate Ethics Committee is looking into allegations of misconduct related to the affair. Coggins called the allegations “baseless.”

“We look forward to the Ethics Committee reaching the same conclusion soon,” he said.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-partisan group known as CREW, complained to the ethics panel in June 2009 after Ensign, 52, disclosed the affair with Cynthia Hampton and resigned his post in the Senate Republican leadership.

The group urged the committee to investigate allegations by the woman and her husband, a former top aide on Ensign’s Senate staff, that they were dismissed from their jobs because of the affair and were paid severance.

If Douglas Hampton’s dismissal was related to the affair, his termination may be a violation of Senate rules barring sexual harassment, the group said. A severance payment to Cynthia Hampton would amount to an illegal contribution by the senator to his own campaign, the group said.

Ensign, a former U.S. House member, was first elected to the Senate in 2000. He has announced he will seek a third term in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Dodge in Washington at cdodge1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.