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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.

We knew the White House was going to have to offer a fuller explanation for its firing of Gerald Walpin, the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service who had clashed with an Obama ally.

And now it has. In a letter sent last night to Congress, reports Politico, Norm Eisen, the White House ethics counsel, wrote that at a May 20 board meeting, Walpin, 78, had been "confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the Board to question his capacity to serve."

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Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) Washington office appears to be in lockdown mode, following his admission yesterday of an extra-marital affair.

A phone call to his Washington office will get the caller forwarded straight to a voicemail box -- which is in fact full, thus disconnecting the caller.

This only goes for his Washington office, though, not the state offices. A call placed to his Las Vegas office was in fact answered by a human being.

A new survey of North Carolina from Public Policy Polling (D) is a further indication that Republican Sen. Richard Burr is vulnerable going into his 2010 re-election battle, trailing a generic Democrat.

The numbers: Generic Dem 41%, Burr 38%, with a ±3.5% margin of error. As for an actual Democrat, the Dems recently struck out on recruitment when popular state Attorney General Roy Cooper announced he wasn't running, and no big names have yet popped up to make the race.

"With Burr's numbers much more dire than Elizabeth Dole's at this point two years ago it's a wonder prominent Democrats aren't fighting for the opportunity to run for this seat," PPP president Dean Debnam says in the analysis. "The current crop of Democratic leaders in the state just isn't as ambitious as in most places."

Interestingly, a PPP survey from a few weeks ago showed Burr ahead of several potential Dem candidates who were given as genuine names. So it's quite intriguing that the generic Democrat has a narrow lead.

The Las Vegas Sun points out that Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) sex scandal could be yet another problem for the state GOP in Nevada -- who currently lack any real leaders due to other scandals and lousy recent elections.

For example, Gov. Jim Gibbons is currently going through a messy divorce, and is one of the most unpopular governors in the country according to polls.

In addition, Ensign's record as a strong social conservative could damage him. "The problem is, he's another one of these Bible-thumping Republicans," said an anonymous Republican operative, who added: "When you take the social conservative banner, there's a higher level of scrutiny on these kinds of things."

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