The White House has no plans to screen doors to presidential aide Margaret (Midge) Costanza's April campaign fund-raiser because, according to several other presidential aides, she has no control over federal contract or other government money matters.
A review of Costaza's $21,025 filing with the Federal Election Commission, made last week, shows that five national labor unions and 28 individuals contributed $500 or more to the event. The filing, required by federal election law, was three months late and was made after news reports called attention to its absence.
Costanza is assistant to President Carter for public liaison. She meets with individuals and organizations that have an interest in government policies.
Robert Lipshutz, counsel to the President, said recently there was "no absolute rule for every situation" on campaign fund-raising by persons in the government.
In the case of Robert Mendelsohn, a nominee fo assistant Secretary of Interior with over $100,000 in election campaign debts, according to Lipshutz, the White House worked out guidelines on what fund-raising could be done, including a review by interior lawyers of "every contribution and debt forgiveness."
Costanza's situation was different, Lipshutz and others have said.
Contanza said her case was different because her debt was only $20,000 and "there wasn't a person in the White House who didn't think I could get on a plane and get my friends in Rochester to raise it."
The "only reason," she said, for the New York event was that she could obtain Vice President Mondale as speaker since he was to be in the cisty that day for another appearance.
Two months after taking city White House job, Costanza and her friends staged the White House-approved $500-a-ticket affair to pay off $17,615 in debts from her unsuccessful 1974 campaign for Cogress. All but $570 of that was to go to Costanze herself, as reimbursement for her own campaign outlay.
Although Costanza is from Rochester, a majority of the $500 donors were from New York City. Many were friends of lawyer William Vanden Heuvel and industrialist Howard Samuels, who helped put the fund-faising party together.
Among them were builders, real estate men and Sydney S. Baron, a public relations man who currently represents both South Africa and the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Baron said,"I don't know her, I never had the honor of meeting her and never have talked to her," and did not go to the party. He gave the money only because Vanden Heuvel said "she was a dear friend of his."
He added, "frankly," that he did not know she worked at the White House until told so Friday by a reporter.
Costanza said of Baron, "He would walk in here today and I wouldn't know him." Told he was a public relations man with foreign government clients, Costanza said, "I didn't even know that."
A sampling of others on the contributor list said they were fully aware of where Costanza worked, but many did not know the debt was being paid off to herself.
One $500 donor from New York who was acquinted with Costanza said "she seemed like a nice lady." He had been told she had to pay off her congressional campaign debt, but he thought it was to others. "I wouldn't give to anybody getting a federal job if I thought they were going to keep it themselves," this donor said, asking that he not be identified.
Howard Samuels said "Midge is an old friend" who ran his New York gubernatorial campaign. He solicited people knowing Costanza was to get people knowing Costanza was to get most of the funds, but he said." She has no money of her own." He told donors she would be "living in the most expensive city in the country."
Costanza's position in the White House "didn't have anything to do with it," Samuels said. "No one's called to ask for a favor," he added." Midge has no power over money. She has influence but not the same kind."
Costanza said she had never checked on the donors."You've got a Bill Vanden Heuvel and Howard Samuels," she said. "I trusted their judgment."
According to her report for the July-September quarter, which was also filed la week, Costanza has a $3,600 surplus in her campaign fund and has yet to pay her other outstanding debt, $570 to a Rochester Printing company.
She plans that and meet in the next few weeks with the FEC to determine what she can do with her surplus