Critizing President Carter for his "lack of leadership," Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner David Gartner had become the first Carter-appointed federal regulator to openly endorse Sen. Edward Kennedy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Gartner says he "will if asked do anything I posibly could for Sen. Kennedy."

Rejecting the president who appointed him to the $50,000-a-year job isn't a bad start.

Gartner never has been the White House's favorite regulator. Soon after the former aide to Sen. Hubert Humphrey was named to the CFTC, it was revealed that his children had received gifts of stock from the owner of a big Minneapolis grain company while he worked for Humphrey.

Carter demanded that Gartner step down. Gartner refused, poining out that he had disclosed the gifts to the White House staff members who approved his appointment.

Since he defied the president, Gartner has remained on the CFTC as a strongly independent source.

Against the background, Gartner admits his support for Kennedy is not exactly a defection, though it has been called that by Minnesota newspapers. "It's pretty hard to defect from a life raft," says Gartner. They threw me off the ship over a year ago."

Gartner says he has not volunteered his services to Kennedy's campaign yet, "but my clear preference -- based not on sour grapes but on a lack of leadership on the part of this administration -- would be Sen. Kennedy."

"I'm just displeased, as I think most Americans are, with the lack of leadership exerted by this adminstration," said Gartner.

Gartner's defection to Kennedy is liely to have more effect in Minnesota, where he is close to influential Democrats, than in Washington.

At the CFTC, the real question is where this leaves Chairman James Stone. Stone is a Massachusetts Democrat with some ties to Kennedy and some of his supporters, but he also owes his job to President Carter.

Other regulators may follow Gartner to the Kennedy camp because Kennedy is generally seen as taking a stronger regulatory stance than Carter. k

The Federal Trade Commission authorization vote in the House was postponed yesterday, probably until next week. The delay gives agency proponents a chance to do some last-minute lobbying on the two amendments to the FTC authorization that were to be voted on.

And, it appears, every minute will be needed. By yesterday afternoon, the amendments ending the FTC probe of the funeral industry and prohibiting FTC regulation of agricultural co-ops both looked like winners.

Despite widespread consumer opposition, both amendments had powerful support from special-interest lobbies. The Congressional Black Caucus apparently was dissuaded from opposing the funeral bill by black funeral directors' active lobbying, for example.

But the delay in the vote also means that the House will be voting after today's scheduled press conference by Sen. Wendall Ford (D-Ky.), who is expected to unveil even tougher anti-FTC amendments on the Senate side. Ford is expecting to list several industries that he will seek to exempt from FTC regulation, and to seek to put new administrative restraints on agency investigations.

One proposed restraint Ford is considering would prohibit the FTC from initiating any formal industrywide investigation until it has issued a cease-and-desist order against a specific company allegdly breaking FTC rules.

Such a rule designed to force the commission to be more careful before opening board investigations, also would create a two-year lag between the time any widespread unfair and deceptive practice is noticed and the time an investigation could be opened, FTC staffers say.

Another Ford proposal would place several restrictions on the FTC's subpoena power, seeking to prevent the kind of broad subpoenas that Ford and FTC opponents say are only "fishing expeditions."

The Inspector General's Office of the Department of Energy has found evidence that the agency's Solar Applications Office has awarded several consulting contracts on the basis of "misleading and inaccurate" information.

The study of 17 noncompetitive procurements granted by the office also concluded that the agency is resorting to noncompetitive bidding because that type of contract-granting is easier to administer.

"As a result, the potential cost-cutting and improved performance that could be obtained form competitve bidding and possibly expanded use of program opportunity notices are being lost for reasons unrelated to the need for noncompetitive procurement," the report states.

The IG calls on the director of procurement and contracts management to "move speedily to enforce the applicable procurement regulations and implement controls to end noncompetitve procurements based on misleading or inaccurate justifications."

The contracts in question in the study were worth about $18 million.