Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Background Check

A top Treasury Department official helping craft financial overhaul legislation is facing questions about his involvement in the subprime mortgage crisis. Conservative media outlets are looking at Eric Stein's work as a senior vice president for the Center for Responsible Lending.

The organization helped get loans to people with less-than-perfect credit. It was also partially funded by billionaire John Paulson, who is currently answering questions regarding what involvement he had in the Goldman Sachs dealings.

Stein is said to be in line to head a new consumer financial protection agency if financial overhaul legislation is passed. BigGovernment.com writes under the headline of "Eric Stein Must Resign: rather than being promoted to protect consumers — he needs to explain his role in creating and sustaining the crisis."

The White House has not responded to our request for comment.

Seeing Green

An Obama energy official, who is helping push for sweeping energy legislation, has a major financial stake in two companies that are poised to benefit from the government's spending on the issue.

McClatchy reports Assistant Energy Secretary Cathy Zoi owns up to a half-million dollars worth of stock in a Swiss-based manufacturer that specializes in smart grid technology. Her husband also owns large amounts of shares in another leading energy-efficient manufacturer singled out by both the president and vice president.

Energy department aides tell Fox News Zoi does not participate in decisions that would drive government money to either company.

Up in Smoke

The volcanic ash that brought European air travel to a standstill earlier this month might not actually have been all that bad.

The Daily Mail reports Britain's civil aviation authority head of airworthiness admits there was a lack of what he calls definitive data, and adds: "it's also true that for some of the time — the density of the ash above the UK was close to undetectable."

The paper says evidence shows the worst of the ash was only about one 20th of the limit that scientists and government officials have determined to be safe for aircraft.

The Odd Couple

And finally, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had a strange response to a reporter's question during a news conference in Italy when he was asked about what was called his political marriage with Russian President and protege Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin responded: "As for marital unions — you have exaggerated a bit. We are friends — friends for many years — I have already said this."

The soon-to-be twice-divorced Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was also on hand and quipped:"I have not done so well with regards to marriage — so I will not begin to give advice."

Fox News Channel's Lanna Britt contributed to this report.