Former federal prosecutor Charles LaBella, last seen talking to Ted Koppel about how Attorney General Janet Reno and the Justice Department deep-sixed his report concluding that a special prosecutor be named to investigate illegal fund-raising in the Clinton '96 campaign and then passed him over for U.S. attorney in San Diego, is coming back to Washington.

LaBella is said to be returning to receive a high FBI award--apparently for his fund-raising investigation--that will be presented to him at the bureau on July 14, Bastille Day, by his pal, the director himself, Louis J. Freeh. Freeh, it may be recalled, has been warring with Reno on this and other matters. He agreed with LaBella that Reno should refer the investigation to an independent counsel.

Will Reno drop by to say a few words? Don't count on it.

Helms: No Benign Neglect on Tribunal

Speaking of independent counsels, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) relied on some colorful words last week to let U.N. ambassadorial nominee Richard C. Holbrooke know precisely how he felt about the Rome Treaty, which would set up a permanent international criminal court.

"Now let me be clear," Helms told Holbrooke. "I am not opposed to the ad hoc war crimes tribunals created by and for the Security Council. . . . But the Rome Treaty. No, sir, that is irreparably damaged. A permanent tribunal such as this, where an independent prosecutor is given almost unlimited powers and where the United States has no veto power to stop a politicized prosecution of American servicemen or other officials, is quite flat out unacceptable."

Helms said he hoped that Holbrooke, if he gets confirmed, would oppose that court. "Some of the court's advocates have suggested that we adopt a policy of benign neglect" toward it, Helms said. "Not on your sweet patooti."

Got that?

Fish Appointment Fries Snowe

When Commerce Secretary William Daley selected a New Hampshire fisherman to an at-large seat on the New England Fishery Management Council, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) smelled something, well, fishy.

The decision to name Anthony Fernandez was a "slap in the face of Maine fishermen and women," Snowe said in a statement, and a "shocking and unfair departure from Maine's historic representation on the council that politicizes the process."

"I guess Maine needs to hold an earlier primary," Snowe said, referring to New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. The council traditionally has five members from Massachusetts, four from Maine, three from Rhode Island and two from New Hampshire. Fernandez's appointment would put the Granite State with its measly "11-mile, $13 million fishery, on a par with Maine's 3,500-mile, $273.3 million fishing industry." "Not fair," Snowe said, demanding the move be reversed.

After all, where does Daley think he is, back in Chicago? "It's not a political process, it is a fair process that has finally allowed New Hampshire to get for the first time in 23 years, an at-large seat," said Commerce spokeswoman Maria Tildon.

Besides, Fernandez fishes in New Hampshire, she said, but he lives in Maine. So did he vote for Snowe?

Hunting for New DEA Chief

The administration is looking for a replacement for outgoing Drug Enforcement Administration chief Thomas Constantine, called "Trooper One" by detractors--a reference to his days as head of the New York state police. One name being mentioned is Thomas Umberg, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and Army reserve lieutenant colonel who's now deputy director of supply reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Moves at the National Security Council

Air Force Col. P.J. Crowley, now director of public affairs at the National Security Council, is retiring from active duty and moving to the Pentagon to take a top civilian job as principal deputy to Assistant Secretary Kenneth Bacon. That will leave only one colonel in the family, Crowley's wife, Air Force Col. Paula E. Kougeas, who handles legislative affairs for the Pentagon's National Guard Bureau.

Also at the NSC, planning director Nicole Elkon is moving to New York to be vice president for communications at Merrill Lynch. NSC executive secretary Glyn Davies gets a huge plum, moving to London to be No. 2 at the Court of St. James.

In the White House press office, director of pool operations Michael Teague is returning home to Arkansas to run the press operation for Attorney General Mark Pryor.

Low Note for the Supremes

Historical footnote of the month. The Supreme Court last week ended its term on June 23, the earliest close since the same day in 1969, Chief Justice Earl Warren's last year. And the paltry 75 signed opinions the justices issued this term--about half the number cranked out per year in the 1970s and 1980s--equaled the low output of the '95 term, according to court records.

Do they have their sights on matching the 1953 term, when there were but 65 written opinions?