DEAR BEVERLY,

Frankly, I'm appalled by your letter saying you're fed up with my news of election campaigns and you'd rather know about the latest Washington sex scandals. It's a mistake to think that Powertown rolls them by one after the other. I've been here over two years and would almost guarantee that Washington is a wasteland for the carnal passions. But to satisfy your prurience, Beverly, I dropped in to Popsie Tribble's the other day, who of course leads a less sheltered life than "wife of," living in Georgetown as she does.

"Well," she said, offering me some nicotine chewing gum (Popsie's trying to give up the Balkan Sobranies), "since the business on the steps of Capitol Hill, sex has disappeared as we used to know it. Secret Vice has taken its place."

I was astonished.

"You mean whips . . . and chains . . . and . . ."

"Far too crude for Washington," Popsie said.

"Now take Lionel Portant, World Famous Columnist and Media Star, happily married, four children, a house in the Vineyard. I suppose you don't know about this Secret Vice. When 'wife of' Portant refused to comply, he was forced to go elsewhere, and found a female congressional staffer."

"Comply to what?" I breathed.

"Reading aloud his old columns, and watching video tapes of his appearances on the talk shows. The two of them do this in the afternoon, entre cinq et sept, French style. Same old story," Popsie said with a sigh. "She's 20 years younger than 'wife of,' who doesn't even read Portant's new columns. Now don't go telling the world because I wouldn't want his family hurt."

"Why does she do it?" I asked.

"The staffer you mean? She does it for Senator Pod's sake. He's on the Finance Committee and he mistakenly believes that a positive mention from Portant on the tube will help his reelection."

"Why does she do it for Senator Pod?" I asked.

"Ambition" Popsie answered. "She wants to become a Powerful Job and needs his support. I suppose," Popsie said a little ruefully, "you might classify her behavior as sexual instead of political, given the confused libido of Powertown."

I know what you're thinking, Beverly, Popsie Tribble is our age and probably misses out on a lot.

I was lucky enough to bump into Sonny Goldstone, the Social Asset and Gilded Bachelor, who happens to be a yumpie expert. He was coming out of the Jockey Club, after sharing crabcakes with some CEO's.

"Do you young people have any sexual scandals?" I asked, walking with him along Massachusetts Avenue.

"Sex, if it happens among the yumpies, is never a scandal," Sonny said. "Sexual scandal has been replaced by something much more damaging."

"Secret Vice?" I asked.

Sonny shook his head dismissively.

"You see too much of Popsie Tribble. I suppose she told you about that staffer who reads aloud to Portant. Everybody knows, so it's not a secret, and nobody cares, so it's not a vice."

"What about her relationship with Senator Pod?" I asked.

"I suppose you're referring to the time when she went with him on a fact-finding mission to Ochos Rios, investigating resort hotels. Same thing. Everyone knows, nobody cares."

"Not even 'wife of' Pod?" I asked.

"Nobody cares about 'wife of' Pod."

"What do Powerful Jobs care about?" I asked.

"Disclosure," Sonny said.

"You mean there are Powerful Jobs who are flashers?" I was shocked.

"Don't be ridiculous. I'm talking about financial disclosure. It has replaced sex if you're looking for a scandal. The neo-Puritans now peek through bank accounts and tareturns for Conflict of Interest. Believe me, there's nothing more salacious than thinking you've discovered a hidden Conflict of Interest."

"How does someone know when he's practicing Conflict of Interest?" I asked.

"That's the trouble," Sonny replied. "In the old days, a Powerful Job certainly knew when he was practicing illicit sex. It's much harder to figure out if you're practicing Conflict of Interest. You never really know if you're doing it. I must say, it takes the pleasure away."

"I can see why you don't want to go into public office, and expose your conflicts of interest," I said, sympathetically.

"You know," Sonny replied, "I think I could get the habit under control. But it's too late for my mother; she's been practicing it for years. Anyway, don't worry about me. Worry about that staffer who has to fill out the disclosure forms."

"She's going to be exposed?" I asked.

"Her father built some sewage plants in the Poconos."

"So what?" I asked.

"I couldn't repeat in polite company what he had to do to get the contract. And you've heard about her brother, the dentist?"

"What's dubious about dentistry?" I asked.

"He put a no-frills nursing home near one of the sewage plants in the Poconos."

"You mean it really smells bad?"

"She hasn't got a chance."

Beverly, I wouldn't go in for double bookkeeping with your muffin shops. George might want to run for Alderman and you'll never get over the shame.

Your best friend,

Sondra