Player of the Week: Tom Coburn

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) will face some questions this week about his role in the scandal that led Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) to resign.

It remains unclear, however, if he will answer them.

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Coburn, who had been Ensign’s roommate in Washington and a close confidant, was clearly trying to help his friend out of a difficult situation. The Oklahoma senator repeatedly urged Ensign to stop his affair with Cynthia Hampton, the wife of former Ensign aide Doug Hampton.

According to a Senate Ethics Committee report released last week, Coburn acted as an intermediary to come up with a financial arrangement between Doug Hampton and Ensign.

Coburn is quoted as calling one offer from Hampton attorney Daniel Albregts “absolutely ridiculous” and a subsequent one “fair.”

During a November 2009 interview on ABC News, Coburn said there was “no negotiation” while acknowledging he was involved in the discussions.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed the complaint against Ensign that triggered the ethics probe, is now calling on the panel to investigate Coburn.

It is worth noting that the ethics report did not conclude that Coburn did anything wrong or admonish him. However, there are some unanswered questions.

According to the report, five witnesses threatened to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights, and the Ethics panel later obtained immunity orders “for certain witnesses.” Was Coburn one of them?

Does Coburn dispute any of the assertions in the report? Does Coburn regret anything he did for Ensign?

Coburn has so far declined to comment to reporters, even to media outlets in Oklahoma.

Throughout his career, Coburn has championed transparency, most notably through his efforts to crack down on earmarks.

In 2008, he worked with then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to pass a bill boosting transparency in federal contracts, grants and loans.

At the time, Coburn said, “In our system of government, the best ethics reform has always been frequent elections and the ability of citizens to hold their elected officials accountable.”

Coburn should break his silence this week and comment on the Ethics Committee’s report.