Chagrined Democratic candidates are starting to discover that those Internet domain names they were about to claim for their campaigns have been snatched up. They've been purchased--for $70 a piece--by James M. Smith, a top House Republican staffer who has worked for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and GOP conference chair Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).

Smith won't say how many names he has purchased--only "I've got a few"--but Delaware Gov. Thomas R. Carper (D), who's running for the Senate, is not going to be able to use tomcarper.com or .org or .net or carperforsenate. Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), also running for the Senate, can't use berniesanders.com or .org or .net or sandersforsenate and so on.

Smith says this is all legitimate, since he was not using government computers or on government time when he registered the names. "I'm not trying to hide anything," he said. "I have my address and phone number" in the registration. "I'm just a loyal Republican."

"This is a form of political speech," he said, "like buying air time or holding up a sign. . . . I may want to get involved in those campaigns," he said. There are other names the various candidates can buy, he said, but he acknowledged that he has cornered the market on several of the "top-tier" choices. So when people search online for information about the candidates and plug in Web addresses "that people might naturally associate with a campaign," Smith said, they may, if Smith chooses to create sites for those addresses, run into Smith's views, not Carper's or Sanders's or other Democrats'.

Would he take cash? "I'm not holding them up for money," he said. "They haven't even called me."

Obey Skins Environmental Lobbyists

Maybe it's the tussling over health care or the budget. Maybe it's worries about mosquito-borne encephalitis. Something has usually allied political folks unhappy with each other these days.

For example, Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), who has a 100 percent favorable rating from the League of Conservation Voters, spent 20 minutes Wednesday ripping into about 20 senior environmental lobbyists. Seems several groups were phone-banking in Obey's district recently, urging their members to call Obey and make sure he stood firm against expected anti-environmental amendments.

A furious Obey, who has been spending his days explaining that he was a good environmentalist, accused the lobbyists, including representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, of undermining him with his constituents. Obey talked about severing ties with the groups and having constituents do the same, according to one source.

"We're bewildered," said one enviro. "The phone script was not negative" toward Obey, he said, and "it's certainly important to let our members know of [legislative] threats to the environment."

Meanwhile, the conservative Coalitions for America feted Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) after Hatch, who not once but twice voted in favor of Clinton judicial nominee Ronnie L. White, pulled a remarkable switch and voted against White on the floor.

So was Coalitions for America national chairman Paul Weyrich praising Hatch for this bold move? Hardly. Weyrich noted that Monday marked the fifth anniversary of the last time Hatch voted against a Clinton judicial nominee in committee. And the sheet cake served at the event said: "With conservatives like Hatch, who needs liberals?"

It's Not His Finest Hour Anyway

Former GOP vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp was holding forth at lunch last week and was asked about Republican (or Reform) candidate Patrick J. Buchanan's views on Hitler and World War II as presented in Buchanan's new book.

Kemp got very exercised, according to our source, saying he couldn't "understand how a Republican knowing history the way Pat knows history" could write such things.

"If Winston Churchill were alive today and could read that," Kemp declared, "he'd roll over in his grave."

Kirkpatrick in Need of Security Counsel

Former United Nations ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, testifying yesterday at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, was listing the "rogue states" that might start testing weapons: "India, North Carolina--North Korea, I'm sorry, and Pakistan are not signatories," she said as the room erupted in laughter. "I was looking at you," she told Chairman Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican, "and thinking about North Carolina, Mr. Chairman."

Clinton Picks 2 Governors

Catching up on recent nominations, President Clinton has said he would name two Pennsylvanians for terms on the U.S. Postal Board of Governors: Philadelphia lawyer Alan C. Kessler, who has been vice chair of the presidential/congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management, and LeGree S. Daniels, who has been serving on the board since 1990.