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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) finally has achieved distinction within the Senate -- albeit in a manner of which he's surely never dreamt. Citizens for Ethics & Responsibility in Government* has named Johnny Casino to its Most Corrupt Members of Congress list. It's an elite club in which he'll find six fellow Republicans and eight Democrats.
This calls for an awards-acceptance speech and, like so many before him, Sen. Ensign couldn't have done it without Dad. CREW's citation reprises the role played by recent Kansas casino aspirant Mike Ensign, who once upon a time ruled Mandalay Resort Group: "Sen. Ensign’s parents paid Ms. Hampton and her family $96,000 after they had learned of the affair. Mr. Coggins [the senator's attorney] insisted the payments were not made from campaign or official funds, nor were they related to any campaign or official duties. Rather, he explained, the April 2008 payments were 'gifts made out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time.' Each of Sen. Ensign’s parents made out four checks in the amount of $12,000 to Cynthia Hampton, her husband and two of their children. [emphasis added] Sen. Ensign’s office claimed the alleged $25,000 severance payment was part of his parents’ $96,000 'gift.'"
So, in case your son doesn't show appropriate gratitude, let me say, thank you, thank you, thank you Mike Ensign for smearing feces all over the casino industry's image at the precise moment that new (and very conservative) jurisdictions are opening to it. And if you're MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren, you might want to have your accountants vet the old Mandalay corporate books, just to be doubly sure there weren't any "patterns of generosity" back around 2002, when Sen. Ensign is widely believed to have had a prior affair. (The identity of his alleged mistress is no secret around Vegas, by the way.)
For all the senior Ensign's labors in the gaming industry, he's likelier to go into the history books as the bagman and enabler for his son's sexcapades.
Sen. John Ensign believes out-of-wedlock births should be "somewhat stigmatized." But out-of-wedlock sex? His position on that is more "nuanced," shall we say.
(* Yeah, yeah, I know: Ethics + responsibility + guvmint often seems oxymoronic, especially in Nevada, but we're working on it. And the senatorial Twitter feed actually springs from the satirically fecund mind of Andrew Kiraly.)
Speaking of Mike Ensign, what the heck was Kansas Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten doing playing the role of media-shy Ensign's personal spokesman? In a literally incredible statement, as paraphrased by The Associated Press, Van Petten said of Ensign and ex-Mandalay sidekick Peter Simon: "they didn't like the fact that the Lottery owns the new gambling under Kansas law — or the 27 percent share of revenues reserved for state and local governments."
Bullshit. Casino ownership by the Lottery has been part of the deal from Day One. As for the tax-rate malarkey, Mandalay Resort Group co-owned the Grand Victoria riverboat in Illinois, which -- in 2003 -- became eligible for a top-tier tax rate of 70%. In Detroit -- again on Ensign's watch -- MotorCity's tax rate went to 24%. In neither instance did Mandalay stalk out of town in a state of high dudgeon.
So the notion of Ensign Sr. falling into a gentlemanly swoon at the prospect of a 27% rate just doesn't wash. Either he and Simon knew this going in and are now prevaricating -- via messenger boy Van Petten -- or they're doofuses who failed to perform due diligence on the Kansas market. Which reputation would they prefer?
The truly inexcusable Van Petten further went on to apologize for his own state's oversight apparatus, saying, "Basically, [Simon and Ensign] just didn't like the regulatory makeup." Well too bad for them. It comes with the territory. What Van Petten should be saying is that if a couple of unemployed ex-Strip casino executives don't like the way Kansas does business, they never ought to have set their Gucci loafers in the Sunflower State to begin with. Or, in the immortal words of Law & Order's Jack McCoy:
"If you're gonna play stickball in Canarsie, learn Brooklyn rules."