Federal, postal and retiree groups have already raised over $3 million to buy arms -- in the form of ads and lobbying expenses -- for the battle to keep civil service pensions from being "gobbled up" by social security.

Plans for integrating the two very different monthly pension systems have not gone much beyond the talking stage. But civil servants are coughing up donations in record amounts to block the merger. Most believe the linkage would erode benefits they have been promised (and have paid for), or that it would cost them more to help finance the "welfare" aspect of social security.

Ironically, federal workers, who manage the giant Social Security system that covers most other Americans, are not under it. And they like it that way. Those who are covered or elegible for benefits under social security earned credit through a spouse, or through nonfederal work.

A blue-ribbon task force is expected to report to Congress within a couple of weeks the results of a lengthy feasibility study on merging the two very different systems. But Congress isn't likely to tackle the merger plan next year -- an election year -- because of the passions merger has stirred among government workers and the fact that it lacks political sex appeal with other voters. To be on the safe side, however, federal, postal and retiree groups have been building up big lobbying funds to fight the merger when and if it becomes a serious issue.