Charts in Hand, Ross Perot Returns to Prime-Time TV

IT seemed just like old times as Ross Perot took to the airwaves in one of his "infomercials" Sunday night. There he was on the small screen again, cajoling, berating, explaining, and offering such folksy sayings as: "It's time to pick up a shovel and clean out the barn." Even his famous flip charts were much in evidence.

For a moment it was hard to remember that the presidential campaign ended months ago and that Mr. Perot is no longer running for president ... or is he? At any rate, he didn't ask for votes on Sunday night. Instead, the Texas tycoon asked viewers to flood his mail with $15 checks to join his United We Stand America organization.

Perot also asked viewers to vote in a "national referendum" on such issues as a balanced-budget constitutional amendment, eliminating the electoral college, and getting rid of special-interests' influence on politics.

His organization distributed more than 30 million ballots through TV Guide and there seemed little doubt that the loaded questions would produce the kind of positive response Perot wanted.

The whole affair - including air time and the ballots' distribution - cost the Texan $700,000. If he keeps blowing his bankroll at this rate he should be broke sometime around the middle of the 22nd century. Backing Boris

Clinton administration officials and leading congressmen continue to offer cautious praise for Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who is heading for a showdown with the Congress of People's Deputies over his declaration of "special rule" this weekend.

The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, said Sunday that the US stands behind the "massive revolution" the Russian president is trying to carry out in the face of impeachment moves in the Russian parliament.

Senate minority leader Robert Dole (R) of Kansas urged President Clinton to move the April summit from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Moscow to show the Russian people that the US stands behind Mr. Yeltsin. "I think President Clinton has a real opportunity here to go down in history as someone who may have saved democracy in that part of the world," Senator Dole said on CNN's "Newsmaker Sunday."

With the exception of Ms. Albright, administration officials generally kept a low profile Sunday as they waited to see how the confrontation between the reformist president and the hard-line parliament would unfold. A PC White House

Forget "snail mail." Now you can tell the White House what you think of the president's policies electronically.

Subscribers to three popular on-line services - CompuServe, America Online, and MCI Mail - can receive information on their computers directly from the White House and can even send the president electronic mail, known as E-Mail, if they want. There are more than 1.3 millions subscribers among the three services.

Another service, Prodigy Services Company, is setting up a "Write to Washington" feature that will allow its 2 million subscribers to send computer mail not only to the president but to Cabinet members and to members of Congress, says Renee Russak, senior producer in Prodigy's editorial development section.

About 500 to 700 pieces of E-Mail arrive each day at the White House. Right now, there aren't enough computer terminals or operators to answer the mail on-line. So the computer mail is sent on discs to the correspondence section of the White House. Hard copies are made and individual letters are answered the old-fashioned way - by US mail. But that's just temporary.

"We are working toward being able to accept E-Mail electronically and to send it electronically. My goal is to have that in place by the first of the year," says Jock Gill, one of the White House's communications specialists.

Another goal: The White House whiz kids want President Clinton, whose computer screen name is "Clinton Pz," to sit down for a live "on-line town hall" with home computer buffs. The techies assure the world that, unlike his predecessor, this president knows his floppies from his mouse.

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