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Front view of the house owned by former Ensign staffers Douglas and Cynthia Hampton.


Bonus Room.


Living Room.








Wine cellar.




Master bedroom.


Master bathroom.




Family room.


Dining room.


Rusty DePass, a prominent South Carolina Republican activist and former state elections director, has now made an abject apology for having joked on his Facebook page that an escaped gorilla from a local zoo was an ancestor of First Lady Michelle Obama.

"I am truly sorry for any offense I have caused," DePass said at a press conference -- held at the offices of the South Carolina NAACP, no less. "My remark was clearly inappropriate and I apologize for writing it."

DePass had previously sort-of apologized for it -- but also said that Michelle had originated the comment by believing in evolution. This new apology at least appears to be a step in the right direction.

Earlier today, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) put up this astonishing post on Twitter, likening the oppression of the Iranian people to the plight of House Republicans:

Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House.

In the hours since, the Twitter community has responded -- with massive heckling. Here's just a small sample of some of the best ones:

ArjunJaikumar @petehoekstra i spilled some lukewarm coffee on myself just now, which is somewhat analogous to being boiled in oil

chrisbaskind @petehoekstra My neighbor stopped me to talk today. Now I know what it is like to be questioned by the Basij!

luckbfern @petehoekstra I stand in solidarity with the oppressed rich white men of Repub Party in the House. #GOPfail Allah Akbar!

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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 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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