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Dump the Bill Collectors?

When was created, its conservative founders claimed to be raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from people across the nation hoping to force Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) from power.

While the Senator already seems to be making progress on his goal of raising $10 million for next year’s re-election effort, the anti-Daschle forces seem to be having a hard time making ends meet.

Visitors to are now met with a one-line greeting: “This site has been shut off for non-payment.”

That’s drawing cackles from the Senator’s camp. “The Bush economy must really be bottoming out if the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ can no longer afford to keep the lights on,” Daschle spokesman Dan Pfeiffer told HOH.

But GOP operative Robert Moran, founder of, said he’s planning to get the Web site back up “eventually” after sorting out its strategic goals.

“We were waiting to find out if their guy was man enough to face the voters,” Moran said of Daschle, who publicly mulled his political options earlier this year, adding sarcastically: “But since he courageously led off the 2004 campaign with a brilliant ad on ethanol, it’s clear that he’s going to try to convince a 60 percent-Bush state to vote for him.”

Daschle’s folks insist he’s running. But Moran — a vice president at top GOP polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates — said conservatives still think Daschle may step aside, so they don’t want to pour money into the race yet.

“A lot of them are holding their fire waiting to see if he’s going to run,” he said, adding of Daschle’s approval ratings, “You can ask Senator Roth, Senator Abraham and Senator Carnahan what they think about being under 50 percent.”

Gold Standard. Martin Gold, a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), will be spending at least part of the August recess on a Baltic cruise for his honeymoon.

Gold jetted to Aspen over the July Fourth recess to wed Celeste Essman in front of a few close friends. (She’s a calligrapher and, if nothing else, that undoubtedly helped save some dough on the invitations.)

They were married in the Maroon Bells, part of the spectacular White River National Forest, but could not immediately head to the honeymoon as Senate business called.

This is the second leadership tour of duty for Gold, a top aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.). He was wooed back to the Hill by Frist to counsel him on floor activity.

“It’s a treat,” said Gold, who expects to head back to the private sector in January. “I didn’t seek this job, but I was glad to do the job.”

True Bipartisanship. Kim Alfano, a top GOP campaign consultant, stunned some of her high-profile clients with a recent e-mail announcing that some time off in this non-election year has enabled her to “fall madly in love.”

Alfano went on to reveal that she has gotten engaged to Bob Doyle, a consultant — gasp! — for Democratic candidates.

“He is a very conservative D!!!” Alfano, who helped elect numerous Republicans including freshman Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and freshman Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), reassured friends and family.

“And those of you who know my mom should take great comfort to know he’s passed HER test — so he’s okay!!!” she added.

The couple is quickly trying to plan the wedding before the next election cycle really heats up and they have to go their separate ways to elect candidates from opposite sides.

Birch Backpedals. Elizabeth Birch, outgoing chief of the Human Rights Campaign, has apologized to Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) for delivering a speech suggesting that the Congressman is a closeted homosexual.

After HOH reported Cunningham’s fury about Birch’s speech, she fired off a letter of apology to the Congressman. And she repeated the apology during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” Tuesday morning.

“Representative Cunningham is a heterosexual male,” she said. “He will tell you that if you ask him. And it is very unfortunate and I think that my presentation, frankly, was sloppy.”

It’s unclear why Birch did not make all of this clear to the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper that published the original story about her speech.

Cunningham, by the way, will be appearing on the inaugural episode of the new season of “War Stories with Oliver North” on the Fox News Channel this Sunday night.

The Congressman will share his experiences as a member of “The Fighter Aces,” the world’s most exclusive club for fighter pilots, during the Vietnam War. The F-4 pilot was one of only two American Ace fighters in that conflict, and later went on to command the Navy’s “Top Gun” school before coming to Congress.

Major League Media Moves. While The New York Times is trying to stabilize the franchise with the hiring of new Executive Editor Bill Keller, a former Timesman has officially landed on his feet with a new gig that will give him a piece of the 2004 elections.

Adam Clymer, who was blessed with a colorful nickname by Bush during his days as chief Washington correspondent for the Times, has been named Washington director of the National Annenberg Election Survey.

NAES is billed as a rolling, cross-sectional survey of the electorate that interviews randomly chosen Americans each night for a large chunk of time. The ’04 survey, led by Clymer and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, will build on the 2000 survey, which was the largest academic survey of the electorate ever conducted.

Meanwhile, one-man multimedia giant Jake Tapper of Roll Call (contributing cartoonist), Salon (national correspondent), The Sundance Channel (talk-show host), National Public Radio (contributor), quickie book (2000 election, Jesse Ventura) and Monica Lewinsky (he dated her once) fame, has been named a correspondent for ABC News.

“Jake has distinguished himself with thoughtful reporting and important political journalism throughout his career,” said ABC News President David Westin. “We are very pleased to have someone of his proven talent join ABC News.”

Tapper had to give up all of his side gigs, including his Roll Call cartoon “Capitol Hell,” and his creativity will be missed.

“I’m really psyched about the job,” Tapper told HOH. “But one of the few downsides is I have to give up ‘Capitol Hell.’ The executives at ABC News, for some reason, didn’t think it was appropriate for one of their correspondents to draw Teddy Kennedy tapping kegs or Bill Frist stalking cats.”

We Report, We Decide? Veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) let loose on the media Wednesday, claiming that news coverage these days is hopelessly slanted to the right.

“If the Democrats walked on water tomorrow, the papers would report that they couldn’t swim,” cracked the gravel-voiced Rangel. “We wish we owned as many newspapers as our friends on the other side.”

Disco Democrats? House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) left his pals rolling in the aisle with a recent self-deprecating floor speech that still managed to bash Democrats for trying to raise taxes.

DeLay alleged that an amendment by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) to the Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill would hike taxes on small businesses across the country. “The Hammer” said this left him wondering if the nation had been plunged back into 1977.

“I started looking around for bell-bottomed pants and aggressive chest hair,” joked DeLay. “But before I dusted off my polyester, you’ll be happy to know I came to my senses, Mr. Speaker.”

DeLay noted that raising taxes is “dead as disco.” But he also slyly observed that he didn’t want to pick on Obey as even the Texan found that “a lot of bad ideas were fashionable” in the 1970s.

With that, DeLay brandished a posterboard featuring a blown-up photo of himself sporting a pink-and-red leisure suit and a wide collar open just a bit to far.

“On behalf of everyone with a picture like this in their family album, I urge my colleagues to vote for this bill, and vote against the small-business tax hikes of the Disco Democrats,” he closed.

Nicole Duran contributed to this report.

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