Coming soon to a television near you: Congressional Satellite Wars.

The Republicans have had their satellite system for nearly two years. But the Democrats are close to installing one of their own, and at least one party member knows just what to do with it.

"I think we ought to use it to jam the Republicans' satellite," cracked Georgia Sen. Wyche Fowler at a gala dinner last night at the Ritz-Carlton that raised $600,000 for the Democratic Satellite Fund.

Fowler was not alone. "You mean like Star Wars?" said Colorado Sen. Timothy Wirth upon hearing the suggestion. "Not a bad idea," he laughed. "We'd win."

Once set up, the system will provide instant nationwide communication between Democratic officials and their constituencies. It will be used for news feeds, interviews and fund raisers.

The dinner, cosponsored by the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees, attracted more than 40 senators, several House members and a few presidential hopefuls.

One of them wasn't getting his hopes up. "I don't think {the satellite} will be available for candidates until they are nominated," said Illinois Sen. Paul Simon.

But Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr., another aspirant, was already beaming. "I'm investigating the availability of downlinks in Des Moines and Manchester (N.H.)," he quipped.

The crowded foyer outside the ballroom provided little maneuvering room during a predinner reception, but that did not prevent a very presidential-looking Jesse Jackson from cutting through the tight press and shaking hands with as many of the 430 potential supporters as he could reach. Among the other luminaries attending the black-tie gala were Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Alan Cranston (Calif.), Bill Bradley (N.J.), Claiborne Pell (R.I.) and Ernest Hollings (S.C.) and House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas.

Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the joint committee investigating the Iran-contra affair, was asked whether the hearings will produce any developments more bizarre than Albert Hakim's testimony yesterday that he had set up a $200,000 "death benefit" account for the family of Lt. Col. Oliver North.

"You'll have a lot more," assured a grinning Inouye, who knew more than he was telling. "You'll get a bit more interested."

During the program, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the DSCC, praised dinner chairman Pamela C. Harriman, calling her "the first lady of the Democratic Party."

"We all get the best of both worlds," Kerry told the crowd. "We get to think like Democrats and eat like Republicans."

Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (W. Va.) recounted the 1986 elections, which returned control of the Senate to the Democrats. "{Now} we're in a communications race, and we're not going to lose that one to the Republicans either," he vowed.

And what would any exclusively Democratic gathering be without a little Republican-bashing?

The Republican Party in the 1980s, said party Chairman Paul G. Kirk, "was sustained and guided by two man-made objects -- the first, of course, was the teleprompter," he said. After the laughter had died down, he continued: "The second was the rear-view mirror. That's the object the Republican Party has used to look to the country's future."

New York Gov. Mario Cuomo addressed the crowd live, via satellite, from his office in Albany. Noting that his participation represented a "dummy demonstration" of satellite capability, Cuomo said, "The point I'm trying to make is, if it works for me, it'll work for anyone."

Cuomo then acknowledged a fact that the Republicans, behind the example of the Great Communicator himself, have known for a long time: "Television unites us as no other medium can."

After Cuomo signed off, Harriman breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Thank heavens the satellite worked."