Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

House of Blues

North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad is ripping California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa for seeking details about VIP loans Conrad received from mortgage lender, Countrywide.

The Senate Ethics Committee today cleared both Conrad and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd of violating Senate rules.

But the Web site Politico obtained letters in which Conrad said the Senate panel is the appropriate forum for an investigation, not Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Conrad wrote: "It is unfortunate that you chose to damage my good name in your report — without giving me the opportunity to provide my side of the story. But that damage has been done... Shame on you for abusing your power."

Frederick Hill, House Oversight Committee GOP communications director shot back: "Senator Conrad's whining doesn't change the seriousness of the situation — or the need for a full investigation of the Countrywide VIP program."

Meanwhile, a Democratic congressman, who rejected Republican calls for records about Countrywide's preferential treatment practices, reportedly received two of those loans.

The Wall Street Journal reports House Oversight Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns says his decision not to subpoena the records had nothing to do with his mortgages. He also maintains he did not know the loans were arranged through Countrywide's VIP program.

Second Chance

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has approved sending a second letter to the Justice Department regarding the dismissal of charges against members of the New Black Panther Party, accused of intimidating voters last November in Philadelphia.

The Washington Times reports a majority of commissioners was not satisfied with the response to their first letter. The Justice Department said the facts did not support harassment allegations. But earlier this week, the commission chairman called that response weak and said he feared a legal precedent that might encourage other groups to act the same way.

Candy Man

And police in Arnold, Missouri are asking residents to help find an unusual kidnap victim. A local newspaper reports a man entered a gas station and tried to buy a life-size candy-dispensing M&M man.

Shortly after the attendant turned him down, the man grabbed the display, dumped out the candy, and ran out the door.

The kidnap victim was last seen wearing white gloves, white shoes, and a yellow-coated shell. And he will not melt in your hands.

— FOX News Channel's Britt Lanna contributed to this report.