LAS VEGAS (AP) – Sen. John Ensign is pushing back against the husband of his former mistress, saying the man made “exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits.”

Ensign’s accusation on Friday was the most direct shot at Doug Hampton, the husband of the woman with whom the Nevada Republican admits he carried on a nine-month affair last year. Through a spokesman, the Republican senator seized on an allegation that had circulated among his allies for days.

The senator’s charge came as he attempted to fight back against a series of accusations from Hampton. In a letter published Friday by the Las Vegas Sun, Hampton accused the man he called a lifelong friend of “heinous conduct and pursuit” of his wife.

Ensign, 51, a staunch Christian conservative in his second term, confessed on Tuesday to the affair with Cindy Hampton, 46, a former campaign aide. Ensign has said the affair began during a rocky time in his marriage in December 2007 and continued until August 2008.

Ensign described the Hamptons as “close friends.” The couples were neighbors and their children went to school together.

Doug Hampton, 47, also worked in Ensign’s Senate office before both Hamptons left their positions in May 2008.

“Senator Ensign’s conduct and relentless pursuit of my wife led to our dismissal in April of 2008,” Doug Hampton wrote in the letter addressed to Fox News. “The actions of Senator Ensign have ruined our lives and careers and left my family in shambles.”

Hampton’s contact with the media prompted Ensign’s abrupt admission, the senator’s office has said.

On Friday, Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said Doug Hampton had reached out to the senator through an attorney who had sought money in the past month.

“Doug Hampton’s outrageous demand was referred to Senator Ensign’s legal counsel, who is handling the matter going forward,” the statement said.

Mazzola would not name the senator’s attorney. Hampton’s lawyer, Daniel Albregts, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The FBI in Las Vegas and Las Vegas police said they were not investigating.

Doug Hampton’s letter to Fox News was dated June 11 and addressed to anchorwoman Megyn Kelly. In it, Hampton sought Kelly’s help in exposing Ensign’s actions.

Tom Lowell, senior producer of “America’s Newsroom,” told the Huffington Post Web site that when reporters followed up with Hampton, he “seemed evasive and not credible, thus we didn’t pursue it.”

The letter claims Ensign was confronted by others about his relationship and conduct.

“In fact one of the confrontations took place in February 2008 at his home in Washington, DC, with a group of his peers,” Hampton wrote. “One of the attendee’s was Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma as well as several other men who are close to the senator.”

An aide to Coburn did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

In the letter, Hampton said he went to work for the senator in Washington in November 2006, but since leaving has “lost significant income, suffered indescribable pain and emotional suffering.”

After leaving his post, Hampton quickly landed jobs with companies associated with the senator. He worked briefly for a consulting firm founded by Ensign’s closest adviser, Mike Slanker. His biggest client was a Las Vegas-based airline whose executives have contributed generously to Ensign over the years.

Mazzola said Thursday that the senator made calls of recommendation for Hampton after he left the Senate office.

Ensign has said he intends to remain in the Senate, though he resigned as head of the Republican Policy Committee, the fourth-ranking spot in the leadership.

Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Pete Yost and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.

AP-ES-06-20-09 0341EDT

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