He's baaack. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is revving up the old donor lists, looking for a few bucks for his Committee for a New American Leadership Inc., which he says is "profoundly different from traditional Washington organizations."

It's "solution oriented," not "ideologically oriented," Gingrich writes in a nine-point "mission statement." Among other things, he wants to cap all taxes at 25 percent, and to work with grass-roots activists to achieve "information age solutions."

Leaving the House "was one of the best decisions I have ever made," he says. (Another, no doubt, was settling his divorce from wife Marianne and avoiding a nasty trial.)

"You have been one of my closest supporters for a long time," he writes in his "Dear Friend" letter, "and I certainly hope I can count on you to join with me. But first, I want to talk to you directly about a personal matter." Uh-oh.

"Over the past few months, you have probably heard or read about my divorce. Some of the things that have been written are true; many others are completely false," he says, offering no guidance. "This has been a deeply painful experience for everyone involved, including me.

"As my friend, I want to say to you that if anything I have done has caused you anger, or made you question the support you have given me so generously over the years, I am deeply sorry.

"If that is the case, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, a human being with shortcomings who has made, and will continue to make, his share of mistakes."

Well, as President Clinton put it, "now it is time . . . to move on." Besides, Gingrich is only asking for a "contribution of $25, $50 or even $100."

Playoff Payoff

"Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert was intensely depressed Saturday after the Tennessee Titans knocked his Buffalo Bills out of the NFL playoffs on a controversial razzle-dazzle touchdown play with just a few seconds left in the game.

The phone rang just as the referee rejected Buffalo's replay challenge.

"Hello," Russert barked.

"Wings," said the caller.

"What?" Russert snapped.

"I want my chicken wings," the caller said.

"You want 'em mild or hot?" Russert asked.

"Hot," was the reply.

Seems Russert had bet Vice President Gore some Buffalo wings vs. West Tennessee barbecue over the game. Gore called in from Iowa wanting his wings.

So Russert dropped off a bucket of 25 at the vice president's mansion, with a note:

"Dear Mr. Vice President," it began. "Here are your chicken wings. As you can see I am a gracious loser. I hope you enjoy watching Bill Bradley as my sole guest on 'Meet the Press' the next three Sundays."

Meet Lindsey Graham

Speaking of Russert, most surrogate speakers know to keep the name of their candidate out there. But sometimes it's hard for politicians, especially when they're so accustomed to putting their own names out there or when they have the exceptionally annoying habit of talking about themselves in the third person.

So there was Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, standing in for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). It was close, but Graham managed to say "McCain" eight times and only referred to himself, that would be Lindsey Graham, a mere seven times.

Lake, Maddox Shift Bases

Big news on the lobbying front. Veteran Republican communications strategist Jim Lake, a former top communications adviser on Ronald Reagan's three presidential campaigns and founder of Robinson, Lake, Sawyer, Miller before moving to Burson-Marsteller, is joining Policy Impact Communications as president and chief executive officer.

And Lauren Maddox, deputy press secretary to Gingrich after the 1994 GOP revolution, senior vice president for the Federation of American Health Systems and top communications strategist for the House Republican Conference, has joined Podesta.com.

Muscatine Rejoins First Lady

Big news at the White House: Lissa Muscatine, who had been the top speech writer for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton from 1993 to 1998, when she left to be a full-time mom, is heading back to work for her once more.

Muscatine, a former longtime colleague at The Washington Post, begins work Tuesday as Clinton's director of communications and press secretary, replacing Marsha Berry in that slot.

Sosnik Washing Windows

So where was White House senior political adviser and hearts player Doug Sosnik the first few days of this week as the government was planning ways to break up Microsoft? Where else? Out in Seattle talking about the possibility of joining other former Clintonites now working for the computer behemoth. Just talking so far, we hear.

Also Tracey E. Thornton, who headed the Senate side of the White House legislative affairs office, is off to Dallas to be senior vice president for public relations at a real estate marketing and asset management company.

True Blue

That's former newsman Doug Thompson who founded Capitol Hill Blue. A cranial Y2K bug apparently inserted the wrong name in Wednesday's column.