The Hill is alive with the sound of pot shots.

Out of the cloud of public confessionals about marijuana from a Supreme Court nominee, two presidential candidates and countless congressmen and senators, the nation's elected representatives are being besieged by local reporters demanding to know their smoking histories.

"I wonder where all this is going, and what it's leading to," said Rep. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-Colo.), who fielded queries this week from two Colorado news services (Answer: "No, I don't smoke dope"). "I hate to see it distracting from some of the other basic issues of our country."

For some legislators, the best advice seems to be "Just say 'No comment!' "

"I told one reporter that I thought it was an outrageous question to be asking," said Gene Smith, press secretary to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who refused to entertain "the pot question" from either the Los Angeles Times or the Herald-Examiner. "It's cross-examination for no reason other than pure sensation," Smith went on. "{Berman's} reaction is the same as mine. It's not a reasonable question."

"She's just not answering," echoed a spokeswoman forRep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

The New York Daily News placed a call to Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.), who wasn't around to take it ("My gut reaction was, 'This isn't journalism,' " complained his press secretary, Liz Stoll). Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.) was given the third degree at his monthly news conference for the Washington state press (Adams replied in the negative). The Fort Lauderdale News polled the entire Florida delegation after Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.) confessed (Results: 17 no, 3 yes). And Sen. Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), appearing by satellite on a Chattanooga, Tenn., TV call-in show, was ambushed with the question by a viewer. "The public's soon going to reach the point where they just say, 'Enough!' " predicted Fowler's press secretary, Chuck Cearce.

Not that everyone has been similarly vexed.

" 'B1' has not gotten one call about whether he smoked marijuana," said Brian O'Leary Bennett, press secretary to Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.), otherwise known as "B1 Bob" for his vociferous support of the bomber. "Not surprisingly, given his reputation. If they ask him something like that, it would probably be about whether he chews bullets."

"My boss and I have talked about it -- we expected a call but we haven't gotten one yet," said Chip Partner, press secretary to Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.). "We decided we would not answer it. It seems to be the perception that it's a great virtue that many politicians are coming out of the closet to confess to sins they may or may not have committed. The message is that you can smoke marijuana and still end up at the pinnacle of the political process. Congressman Gejdenson feels very strongly that there is also a virtue in setting an example."

Some in the Fourth Estate, meanwhile, were quick to defend this new line of inquiry.

"It has had a kind of cleansing effect," said Bill Gibson, Washington bureau chief of the Fort Lauderdale News, which conducted the survey of the Florida delegation. "Now there's almost an amnesty on this issue, since we ended up with a conservative Republican {Mack}, a liberal Democrat {Rep. Bill Lehman} and a centrist Democrat {Chiles} making this admission. It removes some of the hypocrisy." Gibson conceded, however, that if the tables were turned and congressmen began asking reporters the question, "I wouldn't care for it. I'd be offended."

Adam Nagourney, Capitol Hill correspondent for the New York Daily News, said he started calling members of the New York delegation after Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) issued an unsolicited denial. "But then I stopped," Nagourney said. "The whole thing really bothered me. What was the point? I felt silly calling up to ask these guys if they smoked pot."

But back on the Hill, the question is still hanging in the air.

"Most of them, it seems to me, sort of joke about it," Campbell said of his colleagues. "They sort of make light of it. But I do sense a little bit of nervousness in that lightness."