A Dec. 23 article erred in saying that the National Limestone Institute made Christmas gifts of poinsettias to members of Congress. The floral cheer actually came from the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
Chocolate bonbons are spilling off the desks, arms are locked around bottles of gift booze and more pocket calendars than you've ever seen are coming out of their ears.
It is Christmas season on Capitol Hill, the one time of the year when the flow of goodies is reversed. Instead of dishing it out, the legislature scoops it up.
The special pleaders, the vested interests, the people who want to be remembered are once again turning the halls of Congress into a veritable bazaar.
Wreaths and flowers, liquor, cheese, pens, 1978 datebooks and calendars, small appliances, glasses and ashtrays, playing cards and even - now, get this - toilet paper are among the holiday remembrances flooding the Hill.
Just as no one is thought capable of selling his or her soul for an expense-account luncheon, no one is thought capable of treachery in exchange for the miscellanea of consumerism that falls from these skies.
Perhaps the most popular item this year is the pocket datebook. They come in by the score. The Southern Railway won critical acclaim for its choice of leather, made-in-England datebooks, personalized with the legislator's name.
The goodwill factor has a reverse side, however.
Velsicol Chemical Corp., whose pesticide products have made it a subject of regulatory controversy, sent around datebooks embossed with the company name. They weren't popular.
Typically, the trade associations and companies with an interest in the affairs of state send around low-cost samples of their products.
An example is Crown Zellerbach Corp., which is in the paper business. Crown's Christmas package sent to some legislators included sample rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, cups and a holiday wreath.
Why do they do it?
"It's goodwill, nothing more," said a company spokesman. "It is to apprise people of the fact that we appreciate the work they do, and it has nothing to do with the way they voted. The packages have no intrinsic value - they're worth less than $5. You can't buy anyone for a roll of paper."
One of the most coveted prize on the Hill is the gift from Champion circulates large boxes of gift wrapping paper and bows.
There are other examples.
General Electric Co. sent around small deep-fat fryers to some members and committee staffs. Bristol-Myers Co. sent personal care packages - deodorant, shampoo and the like.
From the 3M Corp. came kits of cellophane tape. Mid-America Dairyman Inc., and Kraft Foods Co. sent little cheesepackets to selected members.
Obviously, there are cases where the product doesn't make a convenient gift. So the National Limestone Institute sent poinsettias. The Association of American Railroads handed out drinking glasses and playing cards. The Postal Workers Union and the American Trucking Associations sent large boxes of chocolates. Shell Oil sent pears.
One union - no one could remember which - tried something new. Its gift was a catalog and a gift certificate so recipient could match taste with need.
Another labor group, the United Transportation Union which represents railroad workers, gave its friends automobile emergency kits. Some members kept them; others sent them back.
Ranking right up there with the datebooks in popularity is the bottle of booze. But the folks from whom one might expect the most, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, play it cool.
"Because of the sensitivity of the product, we are very careful," a council official said. "Our giving is extremely limited, not a massive thing."
"We don't concentrate on any one committee," he added. "We are interested in many areas . . . health . . . alcoholism, so we might remember people dealing with those areas, too."
At least one organization, the National Association of Realtors, has come up with a new and popular twist to giving.
It makes contributions to Children's Hospital in Washington and then notifies members and staff assistants that donations have been made in their names.
"We contributed in the name of people we had bothered and badgered all year," said Albert E. Abrahams of the realtors' group. "We were tired of booze and Christmas parties and the candy and all the rest. We felt this was a better way to say, 'thank you.'"
Some of the low-budget items are more popular than one might imagine. For instance, Sen. James Abourezk (D.S.D) grew very fond of the calendars from Continental Oil Co., because of the Middle East scenes he appreciated so much.
Abourezk, a harsh critic of Big Oil, failed to get his calendar last year. So during a subcommittee hearing, with a Continental vice president on the stand, Abourezk said he had just one more question.
Where is my calendar?" he asked. Continental sent a hand-carried copy to his office the next day.