Will the last thinker leaving Washington please unplug the computers?

Agreed, it's premature to claim a permanent brain drain from tank town. But as the federal government and the courts shift power and money to the states, many think tanks are prospering outside the Beltway.

The Hudson Institute is the latest tank to hit it big working with state legislators. On Thursday, Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) will transform a Hudson idea into a state law when he signs the Michigan Urban Policy Initiative.

Engler and State Sen. Bill Schuette had invited Hudson scholars to find ways to encourage people to buy homes in the inner city. The Hudson plan allows low-income residents to claim abandoned housing for a dollar and makes it easier for cities to acquire vacant land--ideas so good that they won bipartisan support from state lawmakers, said Hudson senior fellow John Weicher, a former assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, who directed the project.

THE WINNER IS: Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution, author of "The Little Book of Campaign Etiquette," which recently won the Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism from the National Press Club.

"Gee, I don't think I entered that contest," Hess said when press club officials informed him that he had won. Seems his publisher, the Brookings Institution Press, had nominated his book but hadn't told him.

"So it was really a glorious award," he laughed. "First of all, it was a complete surprise. And secondly, if I hadn't won, I wouldn't have been disappointed at all."

ANOTHER WINNER IS: The American Enterprise Institute softball team. Sporting T-shirts that read "We've got center and right field covered," AEI softballers swept three games to win the fifth annual Think Tank Softball Tournament recently on the Mall.

AEI nipped the Center for Strategic and International Studies 8-7 in the championship game. Meanwhile, in a contest one wag dubbed "the Humility Match," Brookings lost to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, cinching last place in the eight-team field.

As of this writing, AEI stands 21-0 for the season. Its secret for keeping bodies cool and bats hot this summer? "Gatorade and doughnuts," said Henry Jacobi, AEI co-captain.

MORE SPORTS NEWS: Speaking of games and T-shirts, Universal Studios called the Cato Institute last week asking for shirts bearing the Cato logo. Universal is filming the movie "The Contender." The film includes a scene in which a congressman plays in a pickup basketball game and the movie people wanted T-shirts with familiar Washington logos, says Cato's director of public affairs, Julia Williams. The film stars Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater.

ON THE BUS: The Merry Pranksters, the Partridge Family, Bill and Al's ride to victory, and now this: a 128-day, 22,600-mile bus trip next year through the 50 state capitals, hosted by the McLean-based Center for the American Founding.

Center director Balint Vazsonyi says the trip's goal "is to promote a national conversation about the kind of country we want to live in in the next century." He will travel every mile, along with his wife, a team of Center staff and a shifting group of riders.

The "Re-Elect America Bus Tour" begins Feb. 28 in Tallahassee and ends in Philadelphia on the Fourth of July. (They'll trade the bus for a jet to travel to Honolulu on March 24 and Juneau on May 19.) Vazsonyi is seeking 15 tour sponsors who will contribute $20,000 each; so far seven have signed up. You can sponsor a day for $5,000 or a mile for $40. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Vazsonyi, a classical pianist turned conservative political thinker, promotes a four-point agenda (for the record: the rule of law, individual rights, security of property and a common American identity) that he believes encapsulates the goals of the Founding Fathers. He also tries to extinguish the smoldering embers of socialism wherever he finds them. (Trust us: He finds lots of them.)

Why are they starting in Tallahassee? That's where the Hungarian-born Vazsonyi came to study music at Florida State University, and where he met his wife, Barbara--also a classically trained pianist--on his first day on campus.

Have news about think tanks, policy-oriented foundations or nonprofits? E-mail it to ideas@washpost.com

CAPTION: Balint Vazsonyi of the Center for the American Founding plans a "Re-Elect America" tour of all 50 state capitals.