The Navy's Scientology Connection

* Did the U.S. Navy spend $25,000 in taxpayer money to teach Scientology to its civilian employees? "It inadvertently did," says Roger Helbig, a retired Navy purchasing manager who lives in Richmond, Calif. Helbig, 52, has filed a complaint with the Navy's Inspector General over "team-building" management training courses offered in the past year at a now-defunct Navy outfit called the SSPORTS Environmental Detachment in Vallejo, Calif.

Helbig, a civilian, attended one of the classes taught by Sonoma, Calif., consultant Edward E. Morler, and says they borrowed heavily from the Church of Scientology. For instance, Morler's course handouts describe a scale used to measure "Characteristics Related to Emotional Levels"; Helbig says it is "nearly identical" to Scientology's "Tone Scale," pointing out that, among other similarities, both Morler's scale and the "Tone Scale" give "enthusiasm" a 4.0 and "apathy" a .05.

According to his official bio, Morler has a master's in business administration from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from the University of Maryland. Apparently, Morler was once a Scientologist. Janet Weiland, a Scientology spokeswoman, told us that he was excommunicated from the church in the early 1980s but gave no further details. His company, Morler International Inc., is described as an "international management training and consulting firm specializing in interpersonal and organizational effectiveness." Morler's assistant told us he's unreachable, traveling in Europe.

Weiland said the church is worried that he has violated Scientology's copyright. "This is very concerning to us. We are going to investigate this," she said. The Navy, too, is investigating, but a spokeswoman wouldn't comment further. What's not in dispute is that the Navy paid Morler a cool $25,000.

Say What?

Rep. Christopher Cox, who supports fellow California delegation Republican Tom Campbell's quest to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is hopping mad at Capital Style magazine. The November issue claims that Cox told attendees of the recent state GOP convention that the two-term Democrat is "old, fat and lazy, and her husband doesn't want her in politics anymore." Yesterday Cox heatedly denied the quote. "I never said it. It happens to be categorically false," he told us.

But Capital Style editor Bill Thomas insisted that not one but two of his reporters heard Cox make the remark to a group of conventioneers in Orange County.

Said Feinstein's campaign manager, Kam Kuwata: "I'm old, fat and lazy, but I'm not sure I would say that about Dianne. I know Chris Cox and I'll accept him at his word. But if he did say it, it's really beneath him to stoop to that level. It diminishes him and it diminishes his candidate."

Still in Love With the Corporate Jet

* Washington area executives who fly by corporate jet are buzzing over Monday's mysterious Learjet 35 crash that killed golfer Payne Stewart and five others after the cabin apparently depressurized at high altitude, the oxygen gushed out of the plane and all aboard lost consciousness. "If it gets even slightly cold in the cabin," one local billionaire told his staff yesterday, "I'm going to be screaming, 'Is everybody awake?' " But The Source's informal mogul survey suggests nobody is going steerage class anytime soon.

Learjet 60 user, AOL executive and Caps owner Ted Leonsis: "Nope, I don't have any concern. I feel very safe in my plane. If you look at the statistics, it's still safer flying the plane than driving in a private car."

Falcon 50 owner and real estate exec Joe Robert: "I used to own a Learjet 35, and I don't any longer. I'm as curious as everyone else about one question--which is, why did the pilots' emergency oxygen system not work? . . . You can bet that every Learjet pilot is trying to understand what happened."

MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor, who is planning to buy shares in both a Hawker and a Challenger: "My plans haven't changed. My only point is that there really isn't a demonstrable difference between private jets and commercial in terms of the safety record. The sort of decompression that occurred in this crash is so incredibly rare and so bizarre, it must be some fluke."

QUOTE:

"I am delighted to hear that Newt is now making enough money to share with Marianne."

-- Marianne Gingrich's personal attorney, Victoria Toensing, reacting to our item yesterday about Newt's purchase of a $450 bottle of wine.

CAPTION: Pat Buchanan and Vice President Gore are winning the Halloween Primary. The latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll asked registered voters which presidential candidate "would make the scariest Halloween mask." Among the 705 people who answered that question, 27 percent chose Buchanan and 22 percent said Gore (shown in his 1997 costume, right). "What's next--are they going to figure out who looks the most like a Thanksgiving turkey?" mused Buchanan spokesman Neil Bernstein.