With more plot than you could shake a muckrake at, this is a story of private empire vs. public good. Senator Ben Hannaford, a genial but LBJ-ish plutocrat, is censured by his peers after his plots to rape the national forests, take over a Mideastern oil satrapy, etc. etc. are foiled with the help of Parenti, a Pearson-type columnist. The scene; Washington in the '70's, a splenditerously nasty world of payoffs, loopholes, lobbyists and tape recorders. Bad guys include Dirksen, Rivers, Clifford; good guys permutate Mansfield, Aiken, Douglas; the Dodd and Powell themes are clearly transposed. Indeed, Pearson's The Case Against Congress (p. 634) provides a clef to everyone but the Marian Javits character. And many of the harangues come straight out of it, from the Senate's free travel to the depletion allowance issue. They sounded better there: the fictional medium corrodes the message, which is narrated by Hannaford's aide, a barefoot boy with tongue in check. The style ranges from the deliberately funny to the inadvertently puerile; there is also a dollop of sex, like cherry flavoring in antibiotics. The result will be palatable chiefly for readers who like political novels and Pearson. An attention-getter, at any rate.