It's not news that Ronald Reagan is the predominant presidential favorite of the corporate chief executives attending the semi-annual meeting of the Business Council here.
It's more noteworthy that a number of the council leaders see little difference between the economic proposals of Reagan and President Carter, and think that neither candidate's economic proposals are likely to have much immediate impact on the economy.
Not even the president's continued criticism of the Federal Reserve Board and the banking establishment could provoke much emotion from among the dozen business before leaders who met with reporters here Thursday evening.
Walter B. Wriston, chairman of Citicorp, said Citibank of New York may indeed have overreacted -- as the Carter administration has charged -- in raising its prime interest rate a full point to 14 percent last Thursday, half a percentage point above above the rest of the banking industry. "Maybe we raised it too high -- I don't know," Wriston said.
No one knows what an appropriate interest rate should be now because of the unpredictable swings in the money supply, he said. He defended the Fed and his own bank, saying time and patience will be needed to understand and control monetary policy. But he declined to pick a fight with the president on the interest rate issue.
Wriston explained that the flow of money through the economy is increasingly difficult to monitor and control with 14,000 banks, 20,000 thrift institutions and 30,000 credit unions in the system. "I believe that the Fed is on the right track . . . they are entitled to a little leeway until they know how to do it," he said.
The business leaders did not seem interested in the debate over tax proposals by the Republican and Democratic nominees.
Reginald H. Jones, chairman of the General Electric Co., saw the Carter and Reagan tax plans drawing closer together in their reductions to improve capital investment. "I think you see a merging," he told reporters.
The differences that do exist -- Reagan's greater emphasis on personal tax reductions, for example -- will be come relevent when Congress takes up tax legislation next year. "I don't think either plan (Carter's or Reagan's) is what we're going to wind up with," Jones said.
A similar opinion was expressed by a group of corporate economists whose views were reported Thursday by Clifton C. Garvin, chairman of Exxon Corp.
Their feeling, said Garvin, is that the election's outcome won't have much short-range impact on the economy. Carter and Reagan have come closer together on the issue, the economists feel, and they doubt that Reagan could cut spending nearly as deeply as he has promised.
Wriston disagreed, saying that the differences between a Carter or Reagan presidency would be very substantial. The next president will have to make heavy use of his veto to restrain federal spending, Wriston said, implying that he believes Carter won't and Reagan will. Wriston is a Reagan adviser.
Irving S. Shapiro, chairman of E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., a rare Carter supporter among the scores of corporate chief executives here, agreed with Jones that Congress will have the dominant role in shaping tax policy, whichever candidate wins.
"Neither one is going to have a mandate," Shapiro said, and that will minimize the influence either could have in Congress.
"Most of the people I hear from are not too enthusiastic about the campaign," Shapiro said. They regard the election as the choice between "the lesser of two evils," he said.
President Carter was represented at the council meeting by two cabinet members, Treasury Secretary G. William Miller and Commerce Secretary Philip M. Klutznick, and by Mideast peace negotiator Sol Linowitz.
Asked if he had seen any Carter votes among the audience today, Miller said "I saw three," indicating himself, Klutznick and Linowitz. Miller did not pick up the president's criticism of the Federal Reserve and Citibank, saying the administration really wasn't interested in finger pointing.
He confined himself to a good natured dig at Wriston. When told that Wriston had predicted a drop in interest rates by the end of the year, Miller said, "as long as he said it . . . I don't see why it couldn't happen in the next few weeks."