Former Sen. John Ensign of Nevada made false statements to the Federal Election Commission and obstructed a Senate Ethics Committee's investigation into his conduct, the panel said Thursday in a scathing report that sent the matter to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.
Ensign, a Nevada Republican, resigned his seat May 3 rather than face continued scrutiny and possible public hearings about his affair with the wife of one of his top Senate aides, a payment to the aide's family, and the aide's lobbying after leaving Senate employment.
The committee also asked the FEC to investigate possible campaign finance law violations.
"When Sen. Ensign resigned he said and I quote, 'I have not violated any law, rule or standard of conduct,'" committee Chairman Barbara Boxer told the Senate. "I want to go on record ... to say how strongly I disagree with that statement."
The committee has been investigating Ensign for 22 months. The Senate cannot punish a member no longer serving, but the referrals ensure that investigation of Ensign will go on for some time.