TPM News

We asked earlier today whether Sen. Claire McCaskill would be satisfied with the White House's explanation of its reasons for firing AmeriCorps IG Gerald Walpin. And it looks the answer is yes.

McCaskill said in a statement, reports CNN, that the White House was now in full compliance with the law, and added: "The reasons given in the most recent White House letter are substantial and the decision to remove Walpin appears well founded."

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Since Sen. John Ensign confessed to an affair yesterday afternoon, a web of financial and professional ties linking Ensign to his girlfriend, Cynthia Hampton, and to her husband, Doug Hampton, has emerged.

Politico reports that the affair took place from December 2007 until May 2008. Cynthia Hampton was employed last year as the treasurer of Ensign's Senate reelection campaign. And in February, 2008, Ensign made her treasurer of his Battle Born Political Action Committee, when Christopher Ward, who had held the job, was ousted amid a fiscal scandal. The same day, Hampton also took over from Ward as treasurer of the Senate Majority Committee, a joint fundraising committee for six GOP senators, including Ensign, who faced reelection that year. This move, too, appears to have been instigated by Ensign. When Hampton left the campaign in May 2008, Ensign gave her a severance package of an unknown amount.

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A new Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania finds Sen. Arlen Specter with a lead over Rep. Joe Sestak in the 2010 Democratic primary -- but it does seem a bit surprising that Specter's lead isn't even bigger, given his built-in advantages of incumbency and high name recognition.

The numbers: Specter 51%, Sestak 32%.

Both candidates have solid favorable ratings. Specter is at 72% favorable, including 35% very favorable, to 26% total unfavorable. Sestak is at 57% total favorable, with 18% very favorable, to 21% total unfavorable.

Specter has been in the Senate for almost 30 years, and has the full support of the Democratic establishment from President Obama on down, in the wake of his recent party switch (which, as we all know, was triggered by a Republican primary challenger). But there clearly is a genuine base of anti-Specter Democrats willing to support Sestak, so this could be an interesting primary.

In an interview with the Washington Times, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) vowed that in the upcoming census, she and her family will refuse to answer personal questions on the forms beyond the number of people in her household -- which is, in fact, against the law:



"I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home," said Bachmann, who warned of corrupt ACORN involvement in the census. "We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."

In fact, as a Census Bureau spokeswoman told the Washington Times, what Bachmann just announced she would do is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. But hey, there's something to be said for civil disobedience.

(Via Think Progress)

As a fun follow-up to the potential link between the housing crisis and the John Ensign scandal, it turns out that the giant house bought by former Ensign Senate staffer Douglas Hampton and his wife (and former Ensign campaign staffer and reported former mistress) Cynthia Hampton is on the market.

The asking price is $1,660,000 -- though for what it's worth, the folks at Zillow.com think it might only really be worth $861,500. Real estate values have been all over the place lately, and Nevada itself has had the sharpest percentage declines in the nation.



Check out the photos and video. This place is really luxurious.

Late Update: Here's our TPM slideshow.

Gerald Walpin, the AmeriCorps inspector general who was recently fired by the White House, has shot back at his former bosses over the dismissal -- but he hasn't done much to undo the impression that he's far from an independent, non-partisan figure.

Last night, the White House sent a letter to Congress explaining why it fired Walpin. Ethics counsel Norm Eisen wrote Walpin, 78, was "confused" and "disoriented" at a recent board meeting, that he had been absent from the office, and that he had shown a "lack of candor" in providing information to decision-makers. That seemed to refer to a formal complaint issued by a local US Attorney regarding Walpin's work on a probe of the Obama ally, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. The complaint charged Walpin with, among other things, withholding from the US Attorney's office pertinent information he had obtained.

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Rep. John Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary committee, has played a prominent role in recent years exposing executive-branch muck, from the US Attorneys scandal to torture. So it's ironic that Conyers' wife is caught up in some serious muck of her own.

The scandal has been brewing for a while, but it reached boiling point Monday, when Rayford Jackson, a Detroit businessman, admitted in a plea deal with prosecutors that he had bribed a council member in 2007, to gain approval for a $1.2-billion waste disposal contract. The Detroit Free Press had previously reported that the council member in question, described in court documents, is Monica Conyers.

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Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) is posting on Twitter to praise the use of social networking media to organize against the tyrants in Iran -- and the tyrannical Democrats running the House of Representatives.

"Good to see Iranian people move mountains w social media, shining sunlight on their repressive govt - Texans support their bid for freedom," Culberson posted earlier today. He then followed it up with this: "Oppressed minorities includeHouseRepubs: We are using social media to expose repression such as last night's D clampdown shutting off amends"

Over the next few hours -- and following some ridicule in the blogosphere -- Culberson has dug in further. "Pelosi etal shut down House amendments & debate on Approps Bill to prevent conservatives from slowing down their uncontrolled spending spree," he just posted.

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Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) has resigned his leadership position as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, the fourth-highest position in the Senate GOP conference, in the wake of yesterday's admission that he had an extramarital affair in 2007 and 2008.

Ensign had also previously served in another leadership post, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2008 elections -- a cycle in which the GOP lost eight seats (counting Minnesota).

The folks at Gawker have raised an interesting idea in the John Ensign scandal: Did the housing crisis indirectly trigger Ensign's eventual admission of his affair with a former campaign staffer?

The key facts here are that Ensign's reported former mistress was Cynthia Hampton, whose husband Douglas Hampton is a former top Ensign staffer. The Hamptons in turn had taken out a $1.2 million mortgage in 2006, on what is clearly a very swank house in Las Vegas: Five bedrooms, five full bathrooms and one half-bathroom, three fireplaces, a pool and a spa. The net taxes on the House last year were $8,466.41.

But financial disclosures also show that the Hamptons are not wealthy people. And Douglas Hampton had reportedly been asking Ensign for money, which led to Ensign's public admission.

Another key piece of info: Nevada has had the single-worst percentage drop in home prices in the midst of the housing crisis. It's a rough market out there.

We were unable to contact the Hamptons for comment.

TPMLivewire