Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 24, 1975 · Page 131
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 131

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 24, 1975
Page 131
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Page 131 article text (OCR)

TlEltnMs by Robert Walters B ep. Charles J. Carney, a 62-year- old Democrat from Youngstown, Ohio, emerged from the chamber of the House of Representatives to encounter a reporter asking questions about his "office fund." Carney ran down the hallway, shouting "I won't answer," and into an elevator reserved for members of Congress. A week earlier, Carney's legislative assistant, John Novosel, abruptly terminated a telephone call on the same subject. "I don't think I can .be of much help to you," Novosel said, and slammed the phone down. Carney isn't the only House member who won't talk about office funds, although his colleagues' refusals usually are less dramatic. For example, Rep. Richard H. Fulton, a Democrat from Nashville, Tenn., offered only a four- word reply when asked why he wouldn't discuss his office fund: "Because it's not required." Rep. Charles H. Wilson, a Democrat from suburban Los Angeles, was similarly secretive about how his office fund was raised and spent "The Congressman has decided not to grant the request," explained his administrative assistant, John S. Pontius. The reason for that secrecy was best explained by a veteran Congressman who requested anonymity: "Office funds--or newsletter funds, office accounts, research and information funds --whatever they're called--are the last refuge for members of Congress who want to take unlimited amounts of money from any source, spend it on whatever they please and report it nowhere." (The total of these funds runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars.) Undoubtedly the most famous of all such "slush funds'' in Congress was the "Nixon fund," disclosure of which in - 1952 forced Richard M. Nixon, then a Republican Senator from California, to purchase television time to defend himself and avoid being dumped as the Vice Presidential nominee. In that famous "Checkers speech," Nixon said of such funds: "I say that it RICHARD FULTON was morally wrong if any of that $18,000 went to Senator Nixon for my personal use. I say that it was morally wrong if it was secretly given and secretly handled. And I say that it was morally wrong if any of the contributors got special favors for the contributions that they made." However, more than two decades later, many members of Congress are enjoying money "secretly given and secretly handled." The office-account dodge is a relatively recent development. Four years ago the laws governing the financing of campaigns for federal office were so loosely drafted and so seldom enforced that Congressmen did not have to account for money collected for political purposes. Many of them established not only a secret campaign committee but also a special "slush fund" based in the District of Columbia, which was exempted from even the weak disclosure requirements of the law. Traditional uses But in 1971 Congress closed almost all the loopholes in the law, forcing those who still wanted to maintain a secret fund to find something new. They hit upon office funds--traditionally used legitimately to pay for newsletters mailed to voters, flowers for constituents' funerals, parking fees, office coffee machines and other items not covered by the numerous special allowances that Congress has voted for its members. At least half of the 435 members of the House are believed to have some form of office account. Although no public disclosure of their financing is required, a survey shows that most of the funds are relatively small--about $5000 a year, most of it collected in small contributions from constituents. In recent years, there has been increasingly less justification for maintaining private office funds because there has been a substantial increase in the allowances given federal legislators. In addition to an annual salary of $42,500, each House member receives $227,220 to hire staff assistants, $6500 for stationery, reimbursement for 26 round trips back home, two free newsletters mailed to constituents and the "franking" privilege for virtually unlimited first-class mail plus $1140 for airmail and special postage. Other perquisites include more than 500 free hours of long-distance telephone calls from Washington plus unlimited long-distance calls in district offices, $5500 for office equipment, $3400 for the maintenance of each district office--and a generous retirement plan. Senators receive comparable allowances, although they vary with the population of the state the Senator represents. The House Democratic Study Group, a research and reform group, earlier this year held a seminar for aides to newly elected legislators on how to operate an office fund so as to avoid moral, ethical or legal problems. The following points were stressed: · Be aggressive and open in publicizing what you're doing since the "biggest danger is the 'slush fund' charge." · Limit contributions to $100 a person, make full disclosure of monies received and spent, and refuse money from special interest groups. · Never use money for anything that can be construed as personal expenses. · Don't use campaign contributions to pay for office expenses between elections. No legal limits Nevertheless, dozens of House members are operating office funds outside those guidelines, arguing that the absence of any legal restrictions'allows them to do whatever they please. For example, an investigation shows that Carney, Fulton and Wilson--who refused to discuss their office funds-- all recently accepted contributions from special interest groups without disclosing how the money was spent. Within the past year, Fulton's secret office fund received $500 and Wilson's $100 from the Truck Operators' Non~~ partisan Committee of the American Trucking Associations. The Seafarers' International Union gave $250 to the office fund of Carney and $500 each to Wilson and Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat and one of the few House members who has voluntarily filed public reports on his office fund. continued Ywtfre unsinkable Nothing can get you down when you're ready for fun. You could topple off your raft and not be . worried. Because even though you have your penod today, you know you're safe with Tampax^ tampons. Tampax tampons give you more than enough protection for your normal needs. They're soft, comfortable, very absorbent and gently expand in all three directions --length, : breadth and width--to fit* 1 your inner contours. Nothing shows. There's never any bulkiness. And Tampax tampons contain no deodorants. A deodorant in a tampon is unnecessary and may be harmful to sensitive tissues or cause allergic reactions. So have a raft of fun. With Tampax tampons : *-v nothing worries you. The internal protection more women trust CHARLES CARNEY CHARLES W/LSON ^^ ¥·«'.* V , iv-' MADE ONLY BY TAMPAX INCURPORAHD. PALMER. MASS

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