Two Alabama men accused of orchestrating phony rape charges against Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, a Republican, have been indicted.

A Mobile grand jury on Tuesday indicted lawyer Garve Ivey Jr. and his private investigator Wes Chappel on charges of bribery, witness tampering and criminal defamation, according to Windom's aides and news reports.

The case stems from a ferocious campaign battle last year in which a prostitute accused Windom of raping and assaulting her. At the time, Windom's campaign said they suspected state trial lawyers were behind the accusation in part because Windom had run on an aggressive tort reform agenda--as a state senator he often wrangled with the trial lawyers. Ivey is a former president of the Trial Lawyers Association and according to Alabama news accounts was a major donor to Windom's Democratic opponent, Dewayne Freeman.

The rape and assault case was dismissed in January and prosecutors say the woman has been helping with their investigation.

Last night, Windom said through his spokesman: "Garve Ivey and his cohorts were out to destroy my family and me; more importantly they were out to steal the election from the people of Alabama."

The two men, who surrendered and were then released, deny the charges and Ivey has filed a countersuit. In a statement, his lawyer called the grand jury proceedings a "political vendetta."

If found guilty, Ivey and Chappel could face up to 12 years in jail. Windom also has filed a civil suit against the woman and plans to add Ivey to it, said spokesman Ragan Ingram.

Bush Hits Up Democrat Is there no length to which George W. Bush will not go in his quest for dollars? It seems the Texas Republican governor, clearly not satisfied with the $37 million he raised in the first half of 1999, is trying to tap new financial sources. A recent Bush-for-president solicitation was received by an aide to Indiana Rep. Timothy J. Roemer, who by the way, is a Democrat.

May not be a bad idea trying to pick off a few disaffected Democrats, but Bush might want to consider retooling his pitch a bit for this particular crowd.

"If your hope for our party is victory in 2000," his letter to this Democratic staffer states. "Your Charter Member card is enclosed."