While letters from the Federal Election Commission - the government agency that audits congressional and presidential campaigns - often throw fear in the hearts of candidates and campaign treasurers, one of the latter individuals chose humor as a defense against a charge that he had failed to account for 35 cents.

Dr. Jonathan Gallant, a University of Washington geneticist, was treasurer for a vice presidential candidate sharing a ticket with Eugene McCarthy in 1976. In reports filed in 1977, the committee's cash on hand differed by 35 cents, prompting a stern inquiry by the FEC.

Gallant wrote an article for a Seattle newspaper confessing that he'd laundered the 35 cents through Mexican banks.

"I explained it was for the purpose of purchasing the soul of a prominent Washington state politician, but we abandoned the plan when we discovered there wasn't a prominent politician in the state of Washington worth as much as 35 cents," says Gallant. "So, hoping to use our southern connections, we wanted to use the 35 cents as collateral for a loan from an Atlanta bank, hoping to work our way up to the purchase of an airplane."

Caught in the act, Gallant says he's confessed and contacted David Frost and a literary agent. An error in arithmetic was eventually discovered saving Gallant from prison and certain fame. Later, when the party was told by the FEC's general counsel that it had failed to file a "termination notice," Gallant wrote: "Dear General: Here's our termination. Thank you for your interest and goodbye. Terminally, Jonathan Gallant."