Virginia State Sen. Eva Scott of Amelia is an opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her position was incorrectly stated in Saturday's editions.
The price is rubbing shoulders with Virginia Lt. Gov. Charles S. Robb and members of the General Assembly has suddenly skyrocketed.
Business people will have to put up a minimum of $2,500 if they want to attend a reception Robb and his wife, Lynda, will be giving Jan. 31 at their McLean home for visiting state legislators on a two-day tour of Northern Virginia.
Those who want to bring two guests, in addition to spouse or friend, will have to contribute $5,000 -- a sum which, if even in a presidential campaign, could probably win the donor a seat at a White House prayer breakfast.
Big-ticket donors are few so far. Eight firms have taken the $5,000 plunge -- an alarmingly low number in the eyes of Chris Triantafellu, one of those trying to drum up business support.
"It's just disappointing how ignorant some people in the business community are," she says. "This is just a golden opportunity for the business community to educate the legislators."
Even so, 90 percent of the expected $70,000 cost of the tour already has been covered by donations, says Triantafellu, adding that contributions are expressly for that purpose. Between 90 and 100 lawmakers in the 140-member General Assembly have indicated they'll be on the all-expense-paid junket, scheduled to travel by special train from Richmond on Jan. 30.
For businesses that want to be involved in the affair but might be having cash flow problems, tour organizers (the chambers of commerce of all Northern Virginia jurisdictions and the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade) have made sympathetic accommodations.
A $1,000 contribution will get the donor and one other person into a reception-dinner at Stouffer's Hotel in Crystal City in Arlington the night before the Robb party. A $500 contribution will provide one seat at Stouffer's. A $100 contribution will not open the doors to any of the functions, but will put the donor's name in the official "Resource Book" each legislator will get.
Those who make the top contributions will get to attend not only the Robb party but all the other events, which will include a luncheon and closing ceremony at the Quantico Marine Base on Feb. 1.
The requested contributions are high, Triantafellu says, because "the Robbs' house in McLean can't hold too many people."
Trianfellu is assistant to Earle C. Williams, chairman of the tour's financial committee and part of a gradually swelling new wave of executives who, many say, are beginning to rearrange the power structure of business in Fairfax County.
Williams heads BDM Corp., one of the many high-technology contractors to the federal government that have made Fairfax's Tysons Corner area one of the fastest growing business centers in the century. BDM is among the $5,000 contributors.
According to Daphne C. Colthorpe, a General Electric Co. official in Richmond who organized earlier legislative tours of the Norfolk area and southwest Virginia and is executive director of the Northern Virginia trip. "This is basically a public relations effort. So often legislators from downstate view Northern Virginia as another world. We want to eliminate that view."
That goal may not be an easy one.
The belief is widespread among many conservative legislators from downstate that Northern Virginians and their representatives are too liberal and free-spending. While Northern Virginia legislators continually ask for more state money to help pay for the extensive Metrorail system, some of their downstate counterparts complain that their own localities have to make do with rattletrap surplus buses.
There also are huge disparities in income. While Northern Virginia contains only 22 percent of the state's population, it accounts for 37 percent of its gross income.
In 1978, family median income in Fairfax was $30,653. In Lee County in the far-southwest, it was $11,186. In Henry County in Southside, home of House Speaker A. L. Philpott, the median income was $15,860.
There might have been some justification for past resentments, says Florence E. Thompson, president of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce. "But I don't think we're crybabies anymore. We don't want to present ourselves as poor little rich boys."
"You have to do it [the tour] with a good deal of finesse," agrees John T. Hazel Jr., a prominent Fairfax zoning attorney and developer who will serve as a bus tour guide for the legislators.
Finesse or not, one lawmaker who plans to miss the trip is Sen. Eva Scott, the Senator's only female member and a lonely voice supporting the Equal Rights Amendment in the male-dominated General Assembly. Her home base is Amelia County southwest of Richmond, one of the state's most sparsely populated and poorest areas by income.
"I feel I have got to stick with my work at hand," she says. "I have commitments at home in Amelia."