At first glance it seems as if those wily old bureaucrats down in Richmond finally have succeeded.

After decades of fighting the federal bureaucracy - and almost invariably losing - there is the proof: A series of slick, polished advertisements counseling Virginia businesses on how to cut their federal taxes by hiring workers on public assistance.

"How would a $50,000 tax credit look on your bottom line next year?" asks one of the ads.

"How would a training payroll savings of up to 70 per cent look on your bottom line?" reads another.

"How would a 20 per cent tax savings on payroll costs look on your bottom line?" says a third ad.

It is all blunt, direct and in the language corporations like to speak!

Appearing in newspapers across Virginia and in regional editions of national magazines, the ads appear to be the fruition of many Virginians' desirers to subvert Washington.

After all, the ads are the work of the Virginia Employment Commission, a state agency that, among other things, handles unemployment claims. And, a call to the commission confirms that somehow the state managed to get federal funds to pay for the ads.

Using one of those vile "special grants" that Virginia politicians long have cursed, the state is spending $28,000 of Uncle Sam's tax dollars in an effort to counsel businesses on how to send less money back to Washington.

An outrage? Cries of indignation?

All you can find in Richmond are silent approving nods over the ads. Asked if anyone had complained about the use of federal money to urge cuts in federal taxes, Lee Kintzel, assistant public relations director for the Virginia commission, appeared shocked.

"No one has ever raised that question with me," she said incredulously.

If the ads work, Washington won't lose money, Kintzel said. That's because the ads are promoting a program, administered by the Departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare, in which employers earn tax credits by employing welfare recipients.

Under a "complicated formula I don't understand," Kintzel said the federal government has calculated that the program more than pays for itself. The added income and Social Security taxes that former welfare workers pay, plus the lower welfare costs caused by their employment, are supposed to offset the costs of the program, she said.

All of which is a worthy goal, and Kintzel says it's too soon to know if the ads are working in Virginia, which has 22,000 welfare recipients. The campaign has run for three months and is just ending in Northern Virginia.