Sure, times are heady for Democrats these days, what with the recent GOP defection of Rep. Michael P. Forbes, who represents eastern Long Island in Congress. But Maryland State Sen. Martin G. Madden (R-Clarksville), the new minority leader, still was surprised this week to get a chunky envelope in the mail from the opposition party, specifically the national Democratic Leadership Council telling him "why you should become a member."

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, a Republican from Hagerstown, thinks he got one of those envelopes too, but dumped it. "I get so much junk mail," he said.

DLC spokesman Matthew Frankel said the main goal of the mailing was to advertise the organization's Blueprint publication, which promotes policy discussion for all comers. "It's not about necessarily being a Democrat or a Republican," Frankel said. (No explaining, then, underlined sentences like this one: "Republicans just can't compete with New Democrat ideas.")

Any chance the mailing could work--that the Maryland GOP could have its own high-profile defection? "No," Madden said. "Hopefully this movement ended with the Congressman Forbes announcement."

Meanwhile, in other Madden news, the senator has been making a habit of sending back mysterious checks from a certain Dr. Theodor Brendle-Neher, whose return address is a post office box in Duncanville, Tex. In quick succession, Brendle-Neher has sent Friends of Marty Madden three NationsBank draft checks, totaling $11,500.

Madden mailed each of them back, with a letter saying he doesn't take money from unknown, out-of-state donors. He eventually got a letter saying the checks were a mistake--apparently, there was a foul-up in the bank's electronic funds transfer system--but then, the checks came to Madden again.

A friend of Brendle-Neher assures us that the gift that doesn't stop giving was yet another computer mix-up, and not a political ploy.

Texans Come to Aid of Chesapeake Bay

State environmentalists trying to stop the dumping of dredged material in the Chesapeake Bay are still marveling over the boost they got last week from two members of the U.S. Congress not particularly known as friends of the earth: House Majority Leader Dick Armey and House Whip Tom Delay, both Republicans from Texas.

In response to pleas from fellow Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest who represents the Eastern Shore, Armey and Delay agreed to accept language in a committee report virtually banning Maryland from disposing of 18 million cubic yards of sandy soil in waters north of the Bay Bridge. The material is being dredged from Baltimore Harbor to clear shipping channels.

DeLay once called the Environmental Protection Agency "the Gestapo of government," and Armey has not been much more subtle. But Gilchrest said that they fully supported his request.

"To say it's ironic wouldn't be quite right," Mike Shultz, vice president for public affairs of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which opposes the dredging. "It's more an illustration of just how complex Washington can get. But its always nice to get help no matter where it comes from."