Steve Bell; 38 Chief of staff of the Senate Budget Committee and adviser to its chairman, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.):

"It's probably best to have the common touch in the background. The Peace Corps or something like that indicates that at one time or another you let mud ooze between your toes and weren't offended by it. You want to go to the right schools. In the context of this city, I'd say the right schools are one of the top 10 in your area of expertise. Then you would do certain things to indicate you weren't completely anti-social, whether it was a fraternity or sports or some extra- curricular activity. And then you'd come to this town and you'd be a lawyer or some kind of person that seemingly would do good in this town. You'd look for the right big guy, the right big name to attach yourself to. And you'd hope that you'd be able to judge when his star would peak and you'd be able to get off . . . and that's the theory, right? It may work that way. But I've seen it work so many times the other way that I don't think there's any kind of a formula. Influence peddling in this town is very simple: If I want to influence someone, if I can get someone to listen to me, then I'd better be right in what I tell them. Because you don't get many shots in this town." Candice J. Shy, 31 Lobbyist, vice president for federal relations of Enserch Corp., a Dallas-based natural gas company:

"I don't take many members of Congress or senators to lunch. You take the person (on the member's staff) who is the one on whom the congressman relies for information on that issue. Most of the time that is the legislative assistant.

"Does being a woman have an impact? You are likely to be remembered. You are likely, in some cases, to have an easier time seeing certain people because they will remember you. But that's it. They'll also more likely remember if you don't know what you're talking about, if you come across as being flakey. So it can cut both ways. If you don't make a good first impression, they're more likely to remember.

"Last year when the Paula Parkinson episode broke, people were more likely to ask me about that type of activity than they were to say, 'What do you think about the clear air act?'

"(Social contacts) are important in the sense that that can add to your credibility, your reputation, in the eyes of somebody that some day you may need to lobby. You don't establish that kind of contact in a reception. You attempt it at dinners or other things like that. For the most part, you don't ask somebody for their vote at a dinner at a nice restaurant. You do your tough business during business hours and other than that, you try to give people a break from the hard sell. It's the socializing, finding other common interests: 'Do you like tennis, do you like sailing?' (The result) is that they will think of you as a good person they have something in common with, that you might enjoy the same things and, hopefully, that you will get your calls returned." M. Carl Holman, 63 President of the National Urban Coalition:

"I suppose influence is the capacity of a person or an institution to make things happen. It seems that very often that capacity is asserted invisibly or quasi-invisibly, so it's hard to track. Moslems have a saying that those who tell don't know and those who know don't tell.

"Conservative groups adopt a style that is constant with whoever is in power. Those people are used to pushing against the wind; they have seldom had things going their way. When they are going their way, they don't feel comfortable because something must be wrong.

"That brings us to another factor of influence, the skilled or unskilled use of the media. In this town there are some people who know how to use the media very effectively. I think the honeymoon that the civil rights people had in the '60s with the media led them to a serious misunderstanding; that is, they felt, These are our friends, our allies, they are now, will always be; and now they sit fuming because someone will misstate what reality is.

"I think there tends to be a suspicion (among liberals) that (wielding invisible influence) is not quite virtuous. That's not to say that there are not some canny foxes, but see, some think it was a liberal who conjured up the phrase 'influence-peddling.'" Oliver T. Carr, Jr., 57 Washington developer:

"You don't really influence the skyline. You may change its character through a series of buildings, but not because you have a particular level of prestige or are a blueblood or went to Yale. The aura of influence that seems to surround our federal establishment, frankly, may be just that. It may be a perception rather than reality. Probably the hard workers have the most influence.

"I don't think that I would advise any young person that they should wear expensive suits, go to a particular university just because it has a name, not the curriculum, or eat in the right restaurants or know the right people. I don't think so. I think it's like a good wood carver or poet: if you know very well your craft, desire greatly to do it, it will come out just fine. To put it very simply, I'm not terribly intrigued by the artificial; I'm just not impressed by artificiality. I think (social contacts) are grossly exaggerated and unimportant. I'm not interested in the slick approach." Richard Wiley, 48 Former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, currently with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis:

"Influence, I think, really comes -- to the extent that anybody has it -- from a knowledge of the system. Bob Strauss probably isn't as successful as he is because someone wants to do something for Bob Strauss, (but because) he's very knowledgable about the system: how to touch the right buttons, how the systems works in various agencies.

"Personal relationships are always helpful. Just by knowing people you have a better perception of what drives them. You get a flavor of how they're thinking.

"I think also one of the important things is not always going to see somebody because you want something. It's good to see people on a regular basis, sometimes when you don't want something. The hard sell, the emotional sell, does not go over well. Straightforward, substantive arguments are the ones that go over best." Wendell Belew, 32 Chief counsel to Rep. Jim Jones (D-Okla.), chairman of the House Budget Committee:

"It's a mistake to think of power as really being personal. It kind of suggests to some the course of events to suit your own whims and I don't think that's the way it works. I think the most powerful, influential people I've known were people who always returned everybody's phone calls, who listened carefully to what people had to say -- not only members of Congress, not only high-ranking staff people, but really anybody. And if somebody had a good idea, they would carry it forward. I think they understood that influence or power is not so much personal as it is a function of getting things accomplished." Carolyn Peachey, 39 Partner with the public relations firm of Campbell and Peachey Associates, which specializes in work for the entertainment and communications institutions:

"Washington is a very sedate, old-fashioned town with strict rules and guidelines about what is to be done. But I think influence works here in spite of the system. Anyone who says that an invitation or a social function isn't important has never paid attention to what it is that goes on at parties. That can influence a great deal of things. I think that it is an extension of the office here. I don't mean it to sound like a negative thing. A member of Congress for example, sees a journalist at a dinner or at a reception, and they have a chance to talk without all the accouterments of the office around them. It's friendly and they enjoy each other. That journalist is going to get his call returned the next day. The congressman is going to get his call returned." James Tozzi, 43 Deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, reviews all proposed government regulations from agencies:

"A lot of influence is being able to get a decision implemented. That influence, and particularly implementation, means that you have to have a lot of carrots and a lot of sticks. And you've got to use both. People that don't use carrots, the carrots rot. And people that have sticks and don't use sticks, somebody takes them from them. So in a broad term, once you get influence, you don't just keep it in your back pocket.

I don't use the word influence, I use the term "political capital." The real way to look at influence is to look at how much political capital you have: chits that you have, things you can do. Political capital can be in a way that you can write a check, give a person money from your bank account. But when you write a check, it comes out of your bank account. There's a winner and a loser. So you have to think, how much is it worth? Political capital depreciates very fast if you don't use it. You gotta use it and you gotta keep replenishing it and it's a full-time job. You gotta find where to spend it and how to keep the pot full." John W. Hechinger, 62 D.C. National Democratic Committee member, owner of a hardware and lumber chain:

"I just went to this democratic fundraiser and Jimmy Carter was there. Would you say that he has influence today? Very little. If you bring it down to, say, getting phone calls returned, maybe that's about as far as my influence goes. I think that is a product of probably simply being around a long time.

"Washington is such a fundraising town, and it's absolutely ridiculous. I have easily 10 events a week asking for causes and for individuals. And often when a name is used as a member of a committee, it's meant to impress the person who gets it, that these are people of influence, that they're going to be there, that they're behind the cause and that you as the receiver should join. But that gets to be old hat and ineffective. What really happens is that you get on a list, and it's large. It is so over-taxed, overdone, that in fact the strength of moving people is very small." graphics 1-9: Photographs by Ray Lustig Steve Bell, 38 Candice J. Shy, 31 M. Carl Holman, 63 Oliver T. Carr, Jr., 57 Richard Wiley, 48 Wendell Belew, 32 Carolyn Peachey, 39 James Tozzi, 43 John W. Hechinger, 62