Of Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), "The Almanac of American Politics 1980," says, "He shows the enthusiasm one expects from a young, liberal idealist and the physical energy one expects from a man who holds the world 100-yard dash record for his age group."
So it wasn't surprising when the 65-year-old Cranston bounded into the reception for The Fund for Constitutional Government, the political godparent of the almanac, that there were muscle-crunching handshakes all around.
"How's married life?" Cranston shouted at Steward Mott, the fund's founder and financial godparent, Mott, 41, obliged Cranston's curiosity by introducing his bride of six weeks, Kappy Wells, 30, a sculptor. She and Mott wore matching yellow mums on their lapels. Joseph Rauh, a fund director, signed in the direction of the newlyweds, "Wait until he starts telling how she proposed."
Marital good wishes were only a momentary diversion. The real business of the evening, at the fund's modest suite of offices on Capitol Hill, was a celebration of the fund's first five years and the Almanac's fifth edition; the introduction of the new executive director, Robert Carr; and expectedly, a fund-raiser. The paperback almanac is one of those 1,000-plus-page Washington necessities. Jimmy Carter has two copies. Eric Hirschhorn, a member of the Carter reorganization staff, seconded its reliability. "When I read about an unfamiliar name or district, I look them up because the almanac gives more than population statistics," said Hirschhorn.
It was John Connally, then an advisor with the Nixon Administration, and the milk fund scandal that gave the fund its initial push and respectability, William Dobrovir, the lawyer who exposed the scandal, offered last night that the government hasn't gotten any more honest and Connally hasn't become a better politican.
"Let's say that looking at it philosophically, human beings are weak and greedy. In a more practical vein, the politicans need money to get elected," said Dobrovir, "And Connally -- I would never support him."
Standing on a desk, his earth shoes pointed to the floor, Mott recalled that particular investigative high. "That was the time of the dairy donations, CREEP. And no one listened when George McGovern said this the Nixon administration) was the most corrupt administration in history. But we knew we had to do something. Kurt Vonnegut reminded me the other day of that time and the Rosewater Foundation." The room of 75 people all burst out laughing at Mott's allusion to the fund and one of Vonnegut's fictional philanthropies.
Right now the fund, through its two main projects "Open Government" and "Honest Government." is trying to get former Vice President Spiro Agnew to pay back money to the Maryland Treasury; has a suit pending to force the Import-Export Bank to open its meetings: and is trying to get the Federal Trade Commission to release records on McDonnell Douglas, Lockhead and Boeing.
At the party, political affiliations and predictions were low-key. Mott and Dobrovir favor Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass), Margie Gates, the fund's board chairman, has to remain nonpartisan because of her job as deputy inspector general for the Agriculture Department, and Steve Biddle, a grandson of the Roosevelt attorney general Francis Biddle, was signing up people for the independent Citizens Party. Carr, who worked for Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Jimmy Carter, has to sit out next year because of the fund's charitable restrictions. He didn't look happy. "But maybe sitting out is the safest position." he shrugged.