"Dear 8th District Residents:
. . . As a result of my efforts, the law has been changed so that all retirees, regardless of age, and all military retirees who work for the federal government will now get full cost of living adjustments . . . "
So says a recent newsletter that Republican Rep. Stan Parris sent to his constituents in Northern Virginia.
Sounds like quite a major accomplishment for the three-term congressman from Northern Virginia, especially since he is not a member of the House Post Office and Civil Service, Appropriations or Budget committees, where most of the fighting on this issue took place.
Democrat Richard L. Saslaw, who is trying to unseat Parris, says the newsletter is a "distortion of the truth," because, Saslaw claims, other congressmen took a larger role in getting the law changed.
A Parris staffer replied, "We don't claim to have singlehandedly gotten it cost of living adjustments and military retiree benefits through" Congress, only to have played a role in the effort.
The exchange is typical of the type of skirmishing to be found in the 8th District this fall and also may illustrate the role that newsletters play for incumbents in that bipartisan practice known as congressional puffery.
Parris's aide acknowledged that practice does occur on the Hill, but he said that has not been the case with Parris on these issues.
When asked why the newsletter failed to mention that other congressmen were involved, the Parris aide said that the newsletter was focusing on Parris' actions.
"We've been closely monitoring this," added the Parris aide. He said that Parris wrote a letter, along with three other House members, to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee urging that changes be made.
In addition, Parris introduced a bill, HR 237, that restored some cost-of-living adjustments and military retirement benefits that were lost in the 1982 Budget Act. Although that bill was not passed, provisions in the bill were incorporated in the measures that were passed by Congress, according to Parris.
The Federal Government Service Task Force is the major congressional group monitoring federal employe issues. Parris was vice chairman of the task force in 1981-82, but dropped out in 1983 along with most other Republican congressmen, who were concerned about the group's alleged Democratic bent and its opposition to administration policies.
Task force director Robert Honig said that two Democrats -- Rep. William D. Ford (Mich.), chairman of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee, and Rep. Edward R. Roybal (Calif.), chairman of the House Appropriation subcommittee dealing with federal workers, were the key movers in the fight on the cost-of-living adjustments and military retirement benefits.
Honig also said Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer "is known far and wide" as the key player in the effort to stop the Reagan administration from cutting the federal work force.
But Parris, in the same newsletter, disagreed with that assessment. "I have also prevented OPM from implementing controversial reduction-in-force rules . . . ," said Parris. His staff said it took Republicans to carry the message to the Reagan administration.
In another recent newsletter, Parris says: "Merit pay reform legislation sponsored by myself and Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia and . . . Virginia Senators John Warner and Paul Trible, would initiate a performance-based rating and award system for federal managers and supervisors . . . "
Honig said that Republican Wolf and Democrat Hoyer led the fight on merit pay in the House and Republican Trible in the Senate. "And actually Wolf's staff did most of the groundwork on the Senate side, working closely with Trible's people," Honig said.
A Parris aide agreed that Parris' staff did not do the original drafting, although he said they worked with Wolf's office. "Congressman Wolf's office did most of the substantive work on the merit pay bill," he said.
"Our staff went over the merit pay bill before Wolf introduced it," said another Parris aide. "Frank gave it to Stan for Stan's approval. Frank knows he can't win approval without Stan's support."
Saslaw said he is "outraged" that congressman can use taxpayers money to print such materials. But even Democrats agree that the practice of puffery on Capitol Hill isn't limited to Republicans.
"Just because others do it doesn't make it right," said Saslaw spokesman Joe Gleason.