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Regulars are aware that the Box regards American politics as a spectator sport. There are star players, teams, leagues, playoffs, and a national champion. Fans follow the game from childhood on, and once a fan chooses a team, he'll usually stay with that team for the rest of his life. And, least we forget the ultimate legitimizer, you can bet on it.

American politics uses a variation of the World Cup soccer format with yearly league play, regional contests every two years, and a Presidential World Cup every four years. The nation finished its regional contests last fall, Democrats earned a victory in the U.S. House, squeaked into control of the Senate due to a rare double error by former senator George Allen of Virginia.

Since then, the game has moved on to the money primary. Who can raise how much from whom?

At hand is Duncan Hunter's second quarter Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing (April 1st through June 30th). Hunter took in $800,000 and change and spent $874,000 and change, which seems normal for a bottom-feeding presidential candidate. Lets take a look at his distributions. One dollar went to American Express. Twelve dollars went to Bank of America. Seventy dollars went for flowers. And $407,940 was spent on telemarketing fees. Again, everything appears normal.

Who else? Ah, Mike Gravel, the former, 26 years former, senator from Alaska and Democratic candidate for president. There are 36,000,000 people living in California and 17 of them donated money to Mike Gravel during the first quarter of this year. (Listen up people! Some of you are not carrying your share of the load!) Overall, Mike racked up $175,000 in individual contributions since January 1, which is $165,000 more than I thought he would.

Among the tight band of brothers who gave money to Mike is famous movie actor Mark Ruffalo. I can't picture him either, but he was in Collateral, Just Like Heaven, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, All the King's Men, and Zodiac. In fact, he's been in 22 movies since 1996 and I can't place him in a single one of them. I found his fan website, a pro setup with little content. Elizabeth, the webmaster, writes, "Please note that I am NOT Mark Ruffalo. I also do not know Mark... I have no idea how to get in touch with Mark." Still, after looking at his photographs, video clips, fan art, screen savers, and noting I've seen at least a half-dozen of his movies, I still don't recognize him. But that's not the point. The point is he gave $700 to Mike Gravel and that make's him a star in my book.

Now, to the headlines. Hillary took $13.8 million out of New York. No surprise. $8.8 million out of California. No surprise. $28,000 out of Tennessee. That's a problem. And $1,000 out of North Dakota. That deserves a celebration. Who was the hero? Ah, here he is. Let's clap our hands for Larry Villella of Fargo, North Dakota, the state's sole Hillary Clinton contributor and a standup guy.

I happen to have, by way of incredible journalistic enterprise, a transcript of a February 22, 1993 telephone conversation between President Bill Clinton and one Larry Villella of Fargo, North Dakota, age 14. (This is not a joke.) Clinton is aboard Air Force One.

THE PRESIDENT: Larry, it's President Clinton. How are you?

LARRY: Great. Nice to talk to you.

THE PRESIDENT: It's nice to hear your voice. I just heard about you sending me this $1,000 check on CBS Radio. We just heard it over the radio this morning, and I really appreciate it.

LARRY: Okay. I hope that you can use it towards the economy. * * *

The little bastard was paying off politicians when he was 14 years old!

But, to get back to North Dakota and Duncan Hunter, lets give a shout out to Grafton, North Dakota, home of the entire North Dakota Duncan Hunter donation gene pool. The North Dakota Duncan Hunter Honor Roll consists of James Kerian ($2,000) and Dr. John Kerian ($1,000). By the way, Hunter's showing is better than Gothem's creepy-ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had 50 percent more contributors, three, but their total added up to a paltry $600.

Looking at other notables, there is Ron Paul, the Lake Jackson, Texas, congressman, filling the old-crazy-white-guy slot on the Republican side. He raised $2.3 million in the second quarter, which puts him in better financial shape then John McCain. How in the hell did he do that?

Look no further than North Dakota. Paul crushed Hillary, Duncan Hunter, and Rudy Giuliani, bringing home $3,500 from three donors, easily finishing first among the aboveforementioned, so called, front-running candidates.

Finally, from the Strange Bedmates Make Better Bedmates file: Rupert Murdoch contributed $2,300 to Hillary's presidential campaign. His son, James, gave $3,400, and NewsCorp executives added $40,000. All checks have been cashed.

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