Staff is furloughed, but the computers are still on the job to receive those fundraising reports


Ron Paul’s ’79 Chevette may not be “green” like a Tesla or a Chevy Volt or a Nissan Leaf, but it sure is . . . green. And it can be yours, if your donation to the former congressman’s institute is right. (Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity/ )
Columnist October 2, 2013

The Federal Election Commission is among the agencies that are going to be virtually closed because of the shutdown. Fully 335 of its 339 employees are being furloughed. The only ones still around are four commissioners who, by law, can’t be furloughed. (Though without any staff around, it’s unclear what they can do.)

But that doesn’t mean a free pass for campaign fundraising. The computers will be working there to receive your reports, we’re told.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

“Despite the shutdown, FEC reports will continue to be due,” former FEC chairman Dave Mason , now with the political software and services firm Aristotle, advised in an e-mail to clients.

“It is our understanding the FEC servers may remain online to receive filings,” Mason said, even though “FEC staff will not be available to answer questions and provide assistance with technical or substantive issues regarding filings.”

Not to worry. “Shutdown or no, Aristotle WILL be here for you,” Mason wrote, and “will continue to answer any questions you may have . . . to ensure that your reports are filed accurately and on time.”

But things could get even trickier with a long shutdown, he told us. “Computer systems need maintenance,” Mason said, “and eventually will shut down” without it. “Then you won’t be able to file.”

Best keep in touch, maintain records of your herculean efforts to file, have long lunches with a commissioner or two . . .

Don’t sleep in the subway

Playlists of shutdown songs are popular this week. (Of course, we like the one compiled by our colleagues at the Fix.)

But for a real soundtrack to furlough by, we’re partial to a track, written and recorded by three middle-aged guys we’re told are federal employees living in Indiana, that’s been posted on YouTube (you can find it at bit.ly/shutdownsong). Their song is vintage 2011, when you might recall that a shutdown was narrowly averted, though the lyrics ring particularly true today.

“Shutdown” is set to the catchy tune of “Downtown,” made famous by Petula Clark in 1964. The song satirizes the plight of shutdown-afflicted feds but ends on a cheery note as the furloughs lift, with such lines as “Get back to work and don’t be late, you’re funded through September/ Do more with less and do it fast and please try to remember/ We’re essential again.”

Which would be music to some civil servants’ ears.

Free time, free stuff

Furloughed feds are awash in deals from local merchants. (See the free burgers, gratis cupcakes, cheap booze and freebie chicken.) Gimmicky? Sure, but you know what they say about gift horses.

The latest entries in the pity-marketing sweepstakes include free theater tickets, free tire rotation and cheap yoga classes.

In case the brinkmanship on Capitol Hill isn’t enough drama, Signature Theatre is giving away a pair of tickets to its current production of “Miss Saigon.” According to the theater, they’re available this week “in person at the Signature Box Office when reserved with a valid government ID.”

And since furloughed workers might want to use their time off to check off those errands that always fall to the bottom of the ­
to-do list, Koons of Silver Spring is offering “ALL furloughed government employees a FREE oil change, FREE tire rotation and a FREE multi-point inspection.”

And for a moment of Zen, Willow Street Yoga Center of Silver Spring and Takoma Park has $10 classes for folks with a government ID.

“We are acutely aware that the shutdown of the Federal Government is affecting our students and community,” the
e-mail said. “We know that in times like this, yoga is more essential than ever.”

To the Ayn Rand-mobile!

A 1979 Chevrolet Chevette — boxy and unsexy but approaching antique status — might fetch $1,500 on a used-car lot. But one particular vintage four-door sedan may go for many times that amount — and it’s not because it’s got a particularly putrid lime-green coat of paint, but rather because it was owned by libertarian darling and former congressman Ron Paul.

Paul is offering the car to whoever makes the largest donation to the foundation that funds the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, the Texas Republican announced this week. Just two days into the challenge, the biggest pledge has been around $5,500, Daniel McAdams, the institute’s executive director, tells us. And the deadline for giving isn’t until Oct. 15.

McAdams is aware that the car isn’t the prize, though “it does start and run,” he adds. Rather, it’s the cachet of owning a little piece of the Paul legend. In his pitch to would-be donors, Paul described parking the relatively diminutive car next to House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s chauffeured Lincoln for a “cheeky” picture in 1979, when some states were rationing gasoline.

“Tip even levied the ultimate punishment: He blocked pork-barrel funds for me, which I was not seeking anyway,” he wrote.

No matter how much the car goes for, Paul’s wheels could be considered something of a bargain — after all, a dumpy used Chrysler once owned by President Obama was offered for sale on eBay last year for a cool million (though it ultimately didn’t go for that much).

Paul’s even throwing in the original congressional license plate.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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