A key senator has asked for a congressional hearing into the spending activities of the new chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Sen. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.), ranking minority member of the subcommittee that oversees the CPSC, has sent a letter to the subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Robert Kasten (R-Wis.) asking him to investigate recent disclosures that the chairman, Nancy Harvey Steorts, spent about $10,000 to remodel her office--at a time when the agency is being forced to make sharp cuts in its budget and staff.

"There's more attention being paid to refurbishing, spending all kinds of money, knocking out walls so she can have a private entrance to her office," Ford said in a telephone interview, explaining why he asked for a hearing.

Ford said he also was concerned about the disclosure that Steorts ordered the agency's driver--who also serves as a mail clerk--to wear a suit whenever he drives the chairman around town.

Noting that he has fought to keep the agency alive the past several years, Ford said, "I just don't want it to be destroyed by one who's interested more in self image than protection of the consumer, if these disclosures are true."

While Kasten acknowledged he had received the letter, he said he would not make any decision about the requested hearing until he talked to Ford and the other subcommittee member, Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) later this week.