Former Nixonite Patrick J. Buchanan is swatting away speculation he may abandon the Grand Old Party and sign up with the Reform Party. And that might be a good thing, given the high standards Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura laid out last week.

"We have a 12-step program for all recovering Democrats and Republicans," the Reform Party governor told The Washington Post. "The first thing they have to do is recognize they are one."

Ventura said he met with Buchanan in Minnesota recently but there was no discussion of "Pitchfork Pat" signing on to the Ross Perot team.

Buchanan also met recently with Perot, according to his sister and former campaign manager Bay Buchanan. However, "Pat isn't considering leaving the party. He is considering how to beat George W. Bush," she told CNN.

Buchanan allies said a week earlier that he was thinking of leaving the GOP because of his frustration with the party's early embrace of Texas Gov. George W. Bush. In the last campaign, Perot received nearly $30 million in federal matching funds, a tempting pot of money for any shoestring campaign.

Ohio Democrats Employ Lampoon Against Forbes Ally

"Help Wanted," screams the newsletter coming out of the Ohio Democratic Party this week. "Full-Time Secretary of State."

In a particularly cheeky tongue-in-cheek ad, state Dems are taking aim at Kenneth Blackwell for adding yet another out-of-town gig to his lengthy list of extracurricular activities. Already co-chair of the national census oversight board, the African American pol was recently named campaign chairman for Steve Forbes.

Sniffs the spoof: "Applicants should actually want the job and be concerned with the partisan waste of a $90,000+ taxpayer funded salary."

Lowey Aide to Join Hillary Clinton's Senate Effort

Just because Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) isn't running for the Senate next year doesn't mean her top aide won't have a hand in that race. Howard Wolfson, Lowey's chief of staff -- he also just happened to have been communications director for then-Rep. Charles E. Schumer's winning 1998 Senate campaign -- has been hired as press spokesman for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate exploratory committee.

Clinton said in a statement yesterday that she was "delighted that Howard will be joining the exploratory effort. His winning experience with Nita Lowey and Chuck Schumer and his knowledge of New York will be invaluable as I consider a run for the Senate."

Clinton plans to announce her exploratory committee early next month as she officially begins testing the waters for a run for the Senate seat being vacated next year by Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Wolfson, who said he met the first lady this month, will be operating from an office in New York City.

Wolfson's appointment is the second announced by Clinton's team. Recently, Gabrielle Fialkoff was chosen to head her fund-raising. Fialkoff ran the money-raising operation last year for New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone in his unsuccessful Democratic bid for governor. Before that she had raised money for Moynihan's campaign.

Wolfson, 32, a native of Yonkers, not surprisingly predicted that Clinton "would be a great senator -- if she runs."

Louisiana Democrats Endorse Black Congressman for Governor

How the South has changed: Louisiana's Democratic Party yesterday unanimously endorsed Rep. William J. Jefferson for governor. It is the first time an African American has been endorsed by the state party as a candidate for governor.

Jefferson, a five-term House member from New Orleans, is challenging GOP Gov. Mike Foster this fall.