Although newspaper columnists and politicians sometimes enjoy cozy relationships, it's not often a congressman solicits subscribers for a writer. But that's what Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) did late last month for a constituent and part-time military affairs pundit named Mike Bressler.

In a letter written on his House stationary and mailed under his frank, Gingrich wrote about 40 newspapers encouraging them to publish columns on military affairs by Bressler, an assistant to the president of Southwire Co. of Carrollton, Ga. Bressler, a West Point graduate and major in the U.S. Army Reserve, has written about Soviet-American relations in Africa and women in combat for the Daily Times-Georgian and the El Paso Herald-Post. Gingrich believes Bressler deserves a wider audience.

"There's a remarkable dearth of reporters and columnists who have a serious background in studying military history and doctrine," says Gingrich, who thinks Bressler is just the ticket. In his letter to newspapers, the congressman encloses some sample Bressler columns and asks editors to "look at it with an eye toward uisng his column in your newspaper."

Says Bressler: "He just thought what I was writing had a value and needed to be published for wider dissemination."

Says Gingrich: "It's a solicitation, but it's done explicitly for public policy reasons. From my standpoint, it's not a commercial venture, it comes under the rubric of trying to increase the public dialogue, and I think that's a legitimate job of a congressman. I think it's official business, and I think it's part of my job to help Jefferson's Fourth Estate to be more sophisticated.