The "Plum Book," that guadrennial Washington best seller, is coming -- next week.
Although it is has no pictures or sex scenes and possibly the world's dullest cover and title, it is the sort of book that intelligent people claim they would give a limb to read, not to mention own.
The telephone book-sized softback will retail for about $5, if you can get one, and bootleg for 10 times that amount. Strong men have been known to tremble, wondering if their names are in it. And its contents have inspired many to come to Washington to seek their fortunes with Uncle Sam.
This potboiler goes by the unfortunate title "Policy and Supporting Positions" -- but don't be put off! It is Uncle's answer to "All the President's Men" and is must reading for unemployed GOP types, Reagan talent scouts, nervous Democrats and ordinary folk who have visions of being a $50,000-per-year deputy assistant secretary of the department-of-something-or-other. It is hot, hot stuff.
Produced every four years for the edification and enjoyment of the party that wins the White House, the "Plum Book" tells a fascinating tale, sometimes buried in bureaucratic language and code. But it has names. Names of the politically vulnerable. A directory of where the highly paid bodies are, and how they can be got at.
Four years ago, Georgians and other Carter supporters by the busload came here to pore over the 1976 version, and picked the spots they thought they could fill and deserved in government. Now it is the Republicans' turn. And are they ready!
"Policy and Supporting Positions" could be subtitled "Everything You Wanted to Know About the Spoils System but Didn't Know Whom to Ask." It has all the answers. The book lists virtually every political and policymaking job in government that the president, or his designee, can fill without going through all sorts of civil service red tape.
Starting with the White House, and going through every Department (Hhs, HUD, DOE, DOT, the whole works) and agency, the book will tell where the available political jobs are, their grade and pay level, who has it for the moment and -- if you can read the code -- what it takes to make that job yours, or get it for a friend. Political and policy positions listed range from $50,000-a-year jobs, to confidential secretaries and chauffeurs to VIP's. Mostly, the jobs listed are white-collar, professional posts such as confidential assistants, deputy chiefs of this-and-that, executive directors, superintendents, administrators and other replaceables. Many read the book because they are curious about the 2,500 or so jobs that the president can fill. Or because they want one. But the book is also read by people whose names are in it, who want to see how vulnerable they are in an attempt to assess how long they will be around after Ronald Reagan is sworn in.
The former California governor said again yesterday that he will freeze federal hiring when he takes office. But that order no doubt will exempt "Plum Book" jobs. Reagan also has made it clear that he will not ask many, if any, Carter appointees to stay on. He and his advisers are especially ticked off at people in a couple of departments who, they believe, went out of their way to use their positions and workers for political purposes. No names here, but if I were a close associate of the Secretary of Defense, Health and Human Services or Labor Department, I would start checking the want ads carefully.
The "Plum Book" is produced by the Office of Personnel Management (known as the Civil Service Commission when Carter took office) for the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. The committee takes the OPM-supplied data on policy and supporting jobs and includes them -- along with hundreds of nonpolitical positions held by people such as lawyers and scientists who don't have to take the civil service exam. The committee decides how many copies to print, and who gets them. Most, of course, go to the incoming administration. Copies are not available yet. They will probably be released next week. Bear in mind this is the sort of book that, if you have to ask for a copy, you probably won't get one.