The White House is throwing the support of dozens of high ranking administration officials behind the reelection campaigns of Democratic members of Congress.
In a series of four meetings at the White House last week, Hamilton Jordan and other presidential aides told the officials -- who ranked up to the assistant secretary level -- that they should expect to make at least two appearances a month on behalf of Democrats in Congress.
Congressional Democrats have been grumbling for months that the administration has been little help politically and in some cases has been a detriment. This, in turn, has hurt the administration in its search for votes on controversial bills. With the congressional elections less than nine months away, the White House is attempting to solve both parts of this problem.
The administration officials were asked to give the White House every week a schedule of their travel and speaking engagements around the country. The White House congressional relations office, in turn, will seek to match the availability of various administration spokesmen with the requests it receives for help from Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Thus, an assistant secretary of interior who is flying to Denver for a government meeting might also be asked to put in an appearance before the local Jaycees on behalf of Sen. Floyd K. Haskell (D-Colo.).
In other cases, according to a White House aide, administration officials, particularly Cabinet secretaries, will be dispatched on purely political missions to aid various senators and House members.
"I'm glad they're getting organized," said an administration official who attended one of the meetings last week.
The attempt to harness the energies of these officials in the Democratic cause is part of a broad plan of stepped-up political activity this year under the direction of Jordan, President Carter's chief political adviser, and Frank Moore, head of the White House congressional relations office.
One clear advantage to Carter is the expectation that Democrats whose campaigns are aided by the White House will return the favor in the form of cooperation and votes on Capitol Hill.
"We want to make sure people needing help will get it and that we help those people who are helping us," one White House aide said.
The president has already promised Democratic Party officials that he will be much more active politically this year leading up to the November congressional elections. Over the last weekend, he began to fulfill that pledge with brief campaign appearances for four Democratic senators, and he is expected to spend about 20 days this year politicking around the country.
Moreover, Carter has already appeared at one Democratic National Committee fund-raising dinner this year and is committed to speak at three or four more in the months ahead.
The president has already asked his Cabinet secretaries to make two political appearances this month. The meetings last week were an effort to expand that manpower pool to officials below the Cabinet level.
According to a White House official, more than 150 people attended the meetings to hear Jordan, Moore and Michael Berman, Vice President Mondale's counsel, discuss the administration's role in the congressional election campaigns. In addition, Douglas B. Huron, a White House lawyer, explained the intricacies of federal campaign laws while Walt Wurful of the White House press office provided tips on how to deal with local reporters and gain the maximum mileage out of each appearance.
One administration official said most of those who attended the meetings seemed anxious to cooperate.
"You can see the logic to it, you can see the utility to it and you have to ask yourself why this wasn't done last year," he said.