Five Republican senators will get a holiday gift today.

The Business Roundtable, an industry group backed by some of the nation's largest corporations, today begins an early television advertising effort on behalf of Sens. Spencer Abraham (Mich.), John D. Ashcroft (Mo.), James M. Jeffords (Vt.), and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, asking voters to "thank" them for their votes on health care reform legislation this year.

In July, the five joined other Republicans in blocking a series of health care proposals backed by Democrats, including a provision allowing patients to sue their health plans, a measure vigorously opposed by business groups.

Of the five senators picked by the Business Roundtable, only Collins is not up for reelection next year. The others, particularly Abraham and Ashcroft, may face tough battles. The ads, which will cost the Business Roundtable about $500,000, feature a worker in uniform, a shop owner and a construction worker, and have the same message: "Congress is working on health care reform. But what's right for you? . . . Senator [fill in the blank] has voted for health care reforms that are right for . . . families and employers. Thanks, Senator [fill in the blank], good job."

Dueling Endorsements

Vice President Gore and Bill Bradley were bragging about fresh endorsements yesterday.

Former treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin bestowed his blessing on Gore at a midday event in New York, orienting his endorsement toward Gore's new theme of fiscal responsibility. "I have seen Al Gore advocate and join in the hard decisions on economic policy that were often not politically popular but were deeply in the economic interest of the United States," said Rubin, whose words carry a lot of weight in the business community.

Gore, who has launched a two-pronged economic attack on Bradley for his expensive health care proposal and Republican Gov. George W. Bush for his huge tax cut plan, used the event at New York University law school to suggest the pair have embraced a new fiscal theme: "If it ain't broke, break it."

Bradley, meanwhile, collected three congressional endorsements that could be a boost with progressive voters on the West Coast. Reps. Jim McDermott (Wash.), George Miller (Calif.) and Fortney "Pete" Stark (Calif.) said they were drawn to Bradley's ambitious goal of providing health care to all Americans.

"There were 33 million uninsured Americans when the Clinton health plan was defeated six years ago," said McDermott, a physician who supported a single-payer style health system. "Now the number has grown to 45 million. It is unconscionable . . . that we alone among industrialized nations have not found a way to provide health insurance to everyone."

Littleton Congressman Tied to Gun Money

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who represents Littleton, site of the Columbine massacre, had promised to reject any campaign contributions from the gun industry or its opponents after the killings at the high school.

But yesterday his Democratic challenger said Tancredo had violated that pledge by accepting $1,000 from the Safari Club International Political Action Committee on June 18--the day he voted for legislation that critics said would weaken current gun laws. Ken Toltz said that action demonstrated that Tancredo "shows no regard" for area families who suffered through the April shooting.

Wrong, said Tancredo spokesman Greg Meyer. The Safari Club is dedicated to "the conservation of wildlife, education and the protection of the right to hunt," he said, adding that Tancredo had rejected a $1,000 donation from the National Rifle Association this spring and had established a school safety hot line in Colorado through a partnership of local phone companies and law enforcement officials.

In a statement issued from Egypt, where he was traveling on a fact-finding tour, Tancredo reiterated that he would not "take money from either side of the gun issue."

Quotable

"When I'm president, there won't be any more Nazi salutes in the public schools"--Gary Bauer in Monday night's GOP presidential debate.

Staff writers Ceci Connolly and Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.