Attorney General Janet Reno didn't show up at FBI headquarters last week to watch former federal prosecutor Charles G. LaBella receive his award for "Distinguished Service to the Law Enforcement Community." After all, Labella and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, the award presenter, fiercely protested Reno's decision not to seek an independent counsel to investigate 1996 Clinton campaign fund-raising.

But Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee who subpoenaed LaBella's reports to use against the administration, did show up, along with the committee's chief counsel, Barbara Comstock, and chief investigative counsel, Jim Wilson.

Burton, a LaBella guest, got a big round of applause when introduced by the emcee, who said "we are fortunate" to have him as a guest.

Award recipients don't often invite a congressman to what is very much an "FBI family" affair, with spouses and kids attending, to honor agents who did fine work--including some who risked their lives in undercover and other especially nasty assignments. One got an award for something so secret no one was told what it was.

But veteran FBI eyebrows--and even some at main Justice--were raised when LaBella even invited several reporters to the closed event. Worse yet, LaBella's new employer, Decision Strategies Fairfax International, put out a press release hailing his award.

Well, free spirits occasionally do things differently--as both Reno and Freeh now know.

The Starr Invitee The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy gathered Tuesday night to celebrate the arrival of Barbara Olson, former top congressional investigator and big-time pundit, to work with former Republican National Committee chief Haley Barbour.

The packed crowd assembled in Barbour's 10th-floor offices at 12th and Pennsylvania NW included just about the entire majority staff of the House Government Reform Committee and a heralded appearance by fireman and former investigator David Bossie.

But we hear the star of the evening was none other than independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who worked the room and delighted the faithful.

Long Shots for Democracy

Politicians often fret that the voters, after enjoying so many years of extraordinary prosperity, may have gotten too complacent to pay attention to their clarion calls for saving Social Security, more spending on education or even cutting taxes.

Some folks backing former senator Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) are ratcheting up the rhetoric. "Democracy at Risk" is the frightening headline on their paid ad in the July 7 Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Yes, "our form of government, which is based on the will of the people, is gradually being eroded," say the 19 alums--including two from the class of '30 and one from '96--who took out the ad.

"The people are showing their disgust with the moral failure of elected officials by not turning out to vote," the ad says, and qualified candidates won't run "because of the corruption and high cost of campaigns."

Solution? Bill Bradley. He can turn things around, it says. He may be behind, but he's "taken many a long shot and many have gone in."

On the other hand, there was that game against Cazzie Russell and the Michigan Wolverines. . . .

And the Winners Are. . . .

Now that Rep. John R. Kasich (R-Ohio) has given up his candidacy for the White House, we are pleased to announce the 10 grand prize winners of the Loop First Out Contest. Some of these folks not only guessed Kasich would be the first of all the GOP and Democratic contenders to bail, but they nearly picked the very day, July 14, that he did so.

Lou Bubala, a senior editor with INGroup, an Indianapolis company that produces newsletters on Indiana state government matters, and Christopher Coughlin, a consultant in Great Falls, both guessed July 15. Education Department employee Manuel Smith, a three-time Loop contest winner, guessed July 16.

Others coming closest were: Patrick Williams, a recruiting administrator for a San Francisco technology firm; Towson State University political science professor Jack Fruchtman Jr.; U.S. Information Agency Near East and South Asia team leader John Burgess; D.C. political consultant Matt Erickson; Loop fan Mark Hyman; David H. Carroll, government relations director for Synergics Energy Development Inc. in Annapolis; and retiree James D. Lee of Fargo, N. D. Carroll and Lee said Kasich would give up July 4. Congratulations to all; thanks for playing.

Gore Team Wants Moore

Longtime Democratic operative Kiki Moore, who worked on both Clinton presidential campaigns and is now making private-sector money with the Dewey Square Group, a PR firm, is being wooed to join the Gore campaign.

Eight-Pounder at Fish and Wildlife

Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, gave birth recently to a baby boy, eight pounds and 10 1/2 ounces, named Carson James Leopold Clark. Presumably Leopold is for Aldo Leopold, author of the Sand County Almanac and a conservation hero? Clark is said to be the first Fish and Wildlife director to give birth on the job.