No Sex, Please, We’re Lobbyists

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Here’s a good indication of the obvious: in Washington, sex scandals trump institutional corruption.

Politico reports that “embattled” Senator John Ensign (R-NV), who has admitted having an affair with an employee whom the Ensign campaign paid $25,000 and who also received $96,000 fom Ensign’s family (as possible hush money), remains embattled, with his chief of staff and his communications director jumping ship and with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filing complaints with the Senate ethics committee and the Federal Elections Commission. The newspaper reports:

“He’s trying to do a ‘Vitter,’” a senior Senate GOP aide said of Ensign. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) managed to say virtually nothing but that he was sorry for committing a “very serious sin” after his name turned up in the phone book of the alleged “D.C. Madam” in 2007.

“He’s just trying to get beyond this,” the aide said of Ensign. “I am not sure he can, but he’s trying.”

The article makes it clear that due to the sex scandal, Ensign may not be able to hold on. And toward the end of the piece, there is this little nugget about the fellow who will take the chief of staff slot being vacated by John Lopez:

Aaron Cohen, currently a lobbyist with Jeffrey J. Kimbell and Associates, will replace Lopez. Cohen, who served previously as senior policy adviser to Ensign and former Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), currently lobbies on behalf of drug companies like Hoffman-La Roche, according to lobbying disclosure records.

Trysting with a subordinate is indeed scandalous. But a senator hiring a drug lobbyist to be his chief of staff is not cause for the blinking of an eye in the nation’s capital. Not even when that senator sits on the Senate finance committee, which is in the dramatic throes of drafting major health care reform legislation of tremendous interest to Big Pharma. This is merely S.O.P. No extramarital sex is allowed–but there’s nothing wrong with getting into bed with corporate mercenaries. Alas, one of these couplings affects the public interest more than the former.

You can follow David Corn’s postings and media appearances via Twitter.

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