Mr Domenici, a Republican who was the longest-serving senator in New Mexico’s history when he retired four years ago, was among those who tried to get President Bill Clinton impeached in 1999 for his liaisons with Monica Lewinsky (though in a speech to the Senate he said it wasn’t the sex bit that bothered him but the fact that Mr Clinton had lied about it).
That speech – in fact the entire career of Mr Domenici – will be viewed in a new light since his admission this week that he had an affair in the 1970s with a 24-year-old woman called Michelle Laxalt. She happens to be the daughter of the former Nevada senator and governor Paul Laxalt, a close friend of Ronald Reagan and a hero of the conservative right. And they had a son, Adam – now 34 and a lawyer in Las Vegas – whom we are only now learning about.
After decades of silence Mr Domenici and Ms Laxalt sent statements to an Albuquerque newspaper owning up to everything out of fear that their secret was about to be spilled by a national tabloid.