Fame and Fortune

Washington lawyers can earn buckets of money yet spend years in relative obscurity, waiting for that big break that will thrust them into stratospheric fame. Brendan Sullivan, though long esteemed by colleagues, became a household word -- no longer a potted plant -- only when he represented Ollie North in the Iran-contra scandal.

Lanny A. Breuer did not quite reach that wattage in the two years he spent as special counsel to President Clinton. But the official announcement of his return to Covington & Burling touts his efforts.

"During his tenure as special counsel," it reads, "Mr. Breuer represented the president and White House staff in the presidential impeachment hearings and trial, four independent counsel investigations, a Justice Department task force investigation and numerous congressional oversight investigations."

What's more, not a single one of his clients saw the inside of a federal penitentiary. And Breuer did all that while making a measly $107,500 a year in government pay.

But now that he's so deeply experienced in defending the indefensible, Breuer can cash in. Maybe he can borrow the motto of Denver attorney Hal Haddon: "Reasonable doubt for a reasonable fee."

Out and About

The recent indictment of former Monica Lewinsky confidante Linda Tripp on charges of illegally taping the duo's phone chats has revived the "Tripp-sighting" syndrome. One caller reported that Tripp, back at her public affairs job at the Defense Manpower Data Center, has moved her working quarters over to Rosslyn while the Pentagon is being renovated. She was spotted the other day lunching at Lee Atwater's Red, Hot & Blue restaurant in beautiful downtown Rosslyn.

We used to care so much . . .

Unguided Missive

Longtime Hill veterans said they've never seen a "Dear Colleague" letter quite like Rep. Ron Packard's recent "Save the Puppy" epistle.

"Once upon a time, in the beautiful land of Energy and Water," began Packard, a California Republican, "there lived a friendly little puppy whose name was the Packard provision. And what a nice little puppy he was! His only purpose was to help people, by stream-

lining the appeals process for jurisdictional determinations

in Section 404 permit cases."

Packard was talking about the need to get Army Corps of Engineers sign-off on permits to develop in and around protected wetlands. "He was a good puppy, and he never meant harm to anyone," his letter said.

But "in a land far, far away, beyond the outskirts of reality, lived a people known as the Radical Environmentalists," the letter continued. "These people, who apparently had never cast their eyes upon the little puppy itself, imagined it to be a terrible and fearsome monster," and so they were determined to "kill the friendly little puppy."

The letter, sent to all House members, even came with a picture of a young canine, which represents a provision in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for FY 2000. In committee and on the floor, everyone called it "the puppy."

But enviros, strongly backed by the Corps of Engineers, felt that Packard's puppy was in serious need of being Housebroken.

"The puppy pees all over the work of the Army Corps of Engineers," said Perry Plumart, spokesman for the Audubon Society, and would let developers effectively bypass the Corps. "Given the enormous benefit [of wetlands] to communities in terms of flood control and water purification, you've got to have a responsible party like the Army Corps to take a look at proposals to see if the development will harm them."

The puppy is facing an uncertain future. The Senate has no comparable doggie in its version of the bill, so this will have to get worked out in conference in the fall.

And in any event, mean old President Clinton has vowed to veto the puppy.

Of Two Minds On `One China'

There's much hand-wringing these days over how nasty politics has become in Washington. But the Chinese Communists certainly pull no punches. The People's Daily Online recently went after Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for his kind words about Taiwanese moves in the direction of "two states" instead of "one China."

"Helms talked wildly and foolishly," the publication said, and then he "mouthed the filth" that the one-China policy was nothing "but a fictitious diplomatic make-up story by the Chinese Communists."

Well, the paper huffed, isn't it "Helms who has just as a diehard closed his eyes to reality and lives in a fictitious `make-up story' of his own?"

As they say on the House side, "Once upon a time, in the land of the Foreign Relations Committee, there was a little island called Taiwan . . . "

Tips and comments for Al Kamen's column are welcomed at: In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail at Loop@washpost.com. Please include home and work phone numbers.