Diddy Draws Flak From the Right

Hip-hop/fashion/all-media mogul Sean Combs tried to spread the Diddy magic even further last year with a foray into civic education -- his catchily named "Vote or Die" effort. Now he's enduring a classic political rite of passage: the FEC complaint!

The National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission this month against Combs ("a/k/a 'P. Diddy' or 'Puff Daddy,' " the filing states, though everyone knows the Puffy thing was eons ago) claiming his Citizen Change project strayed from its nonpartisan mission into Democratic electioneering. The conservative ethics watchdog cited campus rallies in which celebs such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Mary J. Blige blasted President Bush and cheered John Kerry. It also charged that the effort, with its snazzy "Vote or Die!" T-shirts, was geared to promote Combs's clothing line.

NLPC President Peter Flaherty said he filed the complaint after the NAACP Legal Defense Fund gave Combs an award for his efforts. "That gave us some motivation to expose it."

Yesterday, the NLPC was crowing that the FEC had agreed to investigate, posting a letter from the agency on its Web site. But, said an FEC spokesman, "that goes out to everyone who files a complaint."

Combs's publicist declined to discuss the claims beyond an e-mailed statement: "Citizen Change accomplished what it set out to do: educate, motivate, and empower the millions of young people and minorities about the power of their vote."

They Run Every Two Years, but Can They Pass?

He's a legendary Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach with a 255-49-3 record and a place in the College Football Hall of Fame. So why is Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) coaching a bunch of rookies? He's leading a team of congressmen for tonight's flag football game against the U.S. Capitol Police, with all proceeds going to families of two officers killed at the Capitol in 1998.

"The opposition has some advantages: Their guys are in their twenties and thirties and work out every day," said Osborne. Yeah, but the Reps have a better coach. "Coaching only takes you so far in this business," he deadpanned.

His best players are the guys who played a little ball in college -- linebackers Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) and quarterbacks Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.). The hour-long game at Gallaudet University will kick off with a coin toss by ex-pro Jack Kemp and Gallaudet President I. King Jordan.

There will be none of those nasty partisan plays: This match will be more like the Nebraska-Oklahoma games. "That's a friendly rivalry," said Osborne. "I'm for that."

Love, Etc.

Date With Destiny: Oprah Winfrey says a date with Roger Ebert changed her life. Our first thought was . . . Oprah? With "Thumbs Up/Down" Roger?

The very one. On Monday's TV lovefest celebrating the 20-year reign of Her O-ness, the talk show queen revealed it was the Chicago film critic who put her on the multimillion-dollar path to fame.

"Roger Ebert and I had gone on a date. . . . We went to a movie," Winfrey told the audience. "He told me that syndication would be a good thing for my show, that there were people who syndicated his show [with Gene Siskel] who'd be interested in talking to me about it."

What movie? (Bet he got the tickets free.) Did her buy her dinner, at least? Did they kiss good night? Thumbs up? The only thing we know for sure is that she took his advice, her show went into national syndication in September 1986, and now she runs the world.

This Just In . . .

Special literary news flash:

* Writer Candace Bushnell, whose "Sex and the City" column was a monster hit for HBO, will adapt her latest novel into an NBC series. "Lipstick Jungle" will follow three successful NYC career women who like being on top.

* Rapper 50 Cent will lend his name to a line of hip-hop novellas and graphic novels starring his G-Unit rap crew. Pocket/MTV Books says the books will "tell the truth" about sex, guns, "brutal highs and short lives." You know, kinda like Hemingway.

Hey, Isn't That . . . ?

Newlywed/newly rehabbed Robert Downey Jr., checking into Georgetown's Aveda salon yesterday for a shiatsu massage, sporting a goatee and a traffic-stopping diamond wedding ring.