Members of President-elect Reagan's transition team are getting a lot of inside help in their quest to unearth Democratic bodies that are being quietly buried in safe, unmarked civil service jobs.
Transition aides assigned to departments and agencies, primarily to find out how they work, are up to their eyeballs in some cases with tips from bureaucrats who want to put names on any GOP political hit list being compiled.
The transition folks have gotten notes detailing the backgrounds and activities of alleged Carter loyalists. They are being told of personnel shenanigans that have taken place, or are in the works, aimed at slipping political appointees into low-profile, fireproof merit system jobs where they can wait out the coming four lean years comforted by a regular federal pay check.
The denouncements, which take place every time one party surrenders the White House to another, sometimes come as whispered telephone calls, or in detailed letters from bureaucrats who want to ensure that some of the "political" colleagues and bosses get what is coming to them -- namely unemployment -- next month.
Much the same thing happened four years ago. The Carter transition team got more than its share of tips from insiders anxious to point out where and how Ford and Nixon appointees had gone underground in government.
Like a shell game played with people, experts in manipulating federal regulations can shuffle people around, transfer, demote or convert them to career or nonpolitical jobs. In many cases it is hard to track the politico-turned-career bureaucrat without a map supplied by persons inside government. The Reagan people are getting those maps, in the form of tips, in growing numbers.
Some allege that records and resumes are being doctored, or that people who are clearly political have been hand-picked and walked through the selection process and "qualified" for career jobs. It is often impossible to tell whether the tips are motivated by a love of the merit system, or are supplied by people anxious to even old scores.
Allegations of "burrowing" have come from most agencies. Employees at Justice, Health and Human Services and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to name a few, have advised transition team personnel about planned or completed midnight conversions to career positions. Some tips have gone to the Office of Personnel Management. Many more are sent to transition aids at 1726 M St. NW. It is fast-becoming one of Washington's better-known addresses. Newspapers and TV stations are getting carabon copies of some of the tips.
"When I see people at a copying machine these days," one Commerce Department employee said, "I assume they are either doing up a resume or making copies of a hit list."
All of the above, of course, is contrary to the spirit of transition as expressed by top Carter and Reagan aides. Both sides have gone out of their way -- at the top -- to be courteous and to minimize shenanigans. But according to people farther down in the ranks, none of those good intentions and directives have made a dent in the digging operations. To be continued . . . .