Frank Moore, a large, soft-spoken man who heads President Carter's liaison operation on Capitol Hill, has had his problems in the press in recent weeks. Members of Congress have charged he doesn't return phone calls or he doesn't warn them in advance of presidential decisions on important matters.
But Moore, in an interview in his White House office, said he believes he is getting a handle on the job and predicted, "We'll have as good congressional relations as anyone. There were some early mistakes. They have been and will be corrected. This has been a shakedown cruise for the whole executive branch."
Moore, 41, makes $44,600 but could get a raise under new pay rules. He used to sell Quaker Oats when he was in the advertising and promotion business after he got of the University of Georgia. Later he worked for regional commissions in the South and then became an aide to Jimmy Carter in various positions, beginning before Carter was elected Georgia governor.
Today, Moore is trying to sell President Carter's program to 535 members of Congress. It's not an easy job.
One of the biggest problems, Moore said, and one which contributed to some of the criticism, was the fact that Moore and his half-dozen top aides were responsible for the entire executive branch liaison operation to Congress for a while. The various Cabinet departments hadn't yet appointed their own liaison teams. Now, the liaison people for every Cabinet department are being put in place, taking a heavy burden of detail off the backs of Moore and his White House team.
Another problem, Moore said, was that "Congress came in on Jan. 4 and they got organized and impatient to start doing things. We didn't really get under way until Jan. 20, when the President was inaugurated. There was tremendous frustration from Congress. They were already ready for action. When we came into this office on the 21st, we got 1,100 letters from members of Congress in our first week on the Hill."
Moore, a Georgia native, believes he is assembling a strong liaison team.
Of his staff of about 15 people, three handle the House. They are Rick Merrill, a former employee of the liberal-leaning Democratic Study Group, a loose block of about half the members of the House; Valerie Pinson, former official of the National Association of Counties and ex-aide to Rep. Yvonne Burke (D-Calif.) and Jim Free, a former official of the Tennessee legislature. They do the day-by-day legwork of going to Capitol HIll and talking to and working with House members.
In the Senate, Moore had Dan Tate, a former chief legislative aide to Sen. Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.)
"We're going to add a fourth person in the House and a second one in the Senate," Moore said.
Moore also has an administrative assistant, Bob Russell, who stays in the White House and handles organization and paperwork matters, plus a couple of other aides and about a half-dozen secretarial and clerical personnel.
Moore starts his day at about 8 p.m. with a meeting with the President. "Sometimes it's five minutes. Sometimes 30 minutes. Usually 15. I go in with a laundry list of things and we talk it over. I get his permission to go ahead on some things."
The he attends a meeting of the White House senior staff to discuss congressional and non-congressional issues facing the President. After that the active part of the working day begins.
"Usually I talk to 25 to 30 members of Congress a day by phone. If I'm on the hill it could be 40 to 50. I try to go every day."
Each Friday, Moore meets with the liaison chiefs of the individual agencies for a strategy and coordination conference. He has specific authority from the President to coordinate their efforts.
Moore thinks the problems of his liaison team will disappear.
"We have to get over the tone of an adversary relationship that had existed" between Democratic Congresses and GOP presidents over the past eight years, Moore said. "There are about 15,000 staff on Capitol Hill and probably 10,000 have never worked with a Democratic President."
"The purpose of liaison is to pass the President's program. On reorganization, despite what Evans and Novak and Dave Broder and the rest have been writing, our bill's okay. We're having a god relationship with (House Government Operations Committee) Chairman Brooks, (Jack Brooks, of Texas) and we're going to have a good relationship. The economic stimulus plan will pass."
Interrupted by a call from a Southern senator, Moore talked comfortably about politics and projects, then guffawed when the senator told him a reporter from another publication had asked for an interview on whether Moore was a good liaison chief.
"They're doing a story on me? Tell 'em good stuff," he laughed." Tell 'em I'm the smartest SOB you've ever seen."