One of the most coveted fringe benefits enjoyed by Washington diplomats and members of Congress - free parking at National and Dulles International airports - is being abused by scores of family members, aides and ex-congressmen who have refused to give up their VIP status.
Despite the $60,000 of taxpayers' money that the government spends each year to make sure that bona fide congressmen, diplomats and Supreme Court justices use National's specially designated spaces, there are wide-spread abuses at both airports.
William L. Springer, a former Illinois Republican representative who left office in 1972, parked at Dulles for two days in January, avoiding a $12 fee.
Fred B. Rooney, a Democratic representative from Pennsylvania defeated in November, parked free in the same lot March 22.
Wendell R. Anderson, whose term as Democratic senator from Minnesota expired Jan. 3, used the congressional spaces at National April 7.
Ted Risenhoover, an Oklahoma Democrat whose House term ended Jan. 3, parked at Dulles from Jan. 19 - 25 and avoided a $13 charge.
Other abusers include Nancy Riegle, of McLean, first wife of Sen. Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.). Her car was spotted last week in Dulles' VIP lot with a card on the dashboard that read: "Spouse of a Member of the House of Representatives." The Riegles were divorced in 1971. The senator currently is wed to his third wife.
Drake Johnson, son of Rep. James P. Johnson (R-Colo.) signed a nonrevenue ticket at Dulles April 18 avoiding a $26 parking fee. Michelle Laxalt, daughter of Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) parked at Dulles from April 14 through April 21 and did not pay the $16 parking charge. A spokesman from Laxalt's office said "as far as I know" the senator's daughter was not on official business at the time.
Officials at National and Dulles airports, operated by the Federal Aviation Administration, say they are reluctant to enforce the system, fearing reprisals from Capitol Hill.
"After all, that's where our money comes from," said one Dulles official.
At National, where parking can cost as much as $10 a day, the VIPs are allotted 99 spaces adjacent to the terminal buildings. At Dulles, where daily parking costs $2.50, there are 59 VIP spaces, also located near the terminal entrance.
Under the airport rules the VIPs may park in National's regular lots free of charge. All they must do there and at Dulles is to sign the back of the ticket to avoid the fees.
The charges incurred sometimes are as small as one for 50 cents to Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.) recently at Dulles or as large as $40 to Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum (R-Kan.) from National's most expensive, short-term lot.
Airport officials say they honor congressional license plates, diplomatic tags, special "session" tags issued by Congress or official identification cards from the drivers. "No spouses, children or aides are supposed to park for free," said David Hess, a spokesman for the airports' administration.
But a spot check at the airports reveals many abusers.
The four former legislators who parked in the lots were indignant when asked about their parking. "We are permitted to park because we're former members of Congress," said anderson, who as Minnesota governor in 1976 appointed himself to fill out the remainder of Vice President Walter F. Mondale's Senate term. "I couldn't care less what you say," he told a reporter. "I don't have time to talk about it."
Risenhoover said last week that he wanted to pay, but a guard noticing his congressional license plate still on the car - waved him on. "The next day I contacted the clerk of the House and said I would reimburse the government," he said. "But they never called me back. I had forgotten about it actually."
Springer said he "presumed" that as a former member of Congress, he was still entitled to free parking. "I have always been granted the courtesy. Nobody's ever questioned it," he said. "I was on the committee which created Dulles. Do you see what I mean?"
Rooney, a congressman for 16 years, said, "I don't know what the rules are. Nobody's ever asked if I were a congressman or not."
Frequent abusers, according to parking officials, include congressional staffers who use the special blue and white "96th Congress" plate, foreign students who show their passports and embassy personnel with tax exempt cards.
Although guards and cashiers say they try to avoid confrontations, one Washington judge was recently caught in the act by a Post photographer.
"I had no right to get in," said Court of Claims Trial Judge George Schwartz last week after a National Airport security guard told him he didn't qualify for a spot in the lot.
"I thought I'd try to pull rank," the judge said with a laugh.
The National lot has a sign warning that all illegally parked cars will be towed. According to the airport's towing service, only one car has been towed from the VIP lot this year.
Security guard James Ellison, stationed at one of the National VIP lots, said he likes the job despite the hassles. He works for Rank Security of Durham, N.C., a firm that the FAA pays $60,000 a year to guard the lots. But the guards work 16 hours a day, leaving the lots unguarded eight hours each night. Rankin has assigned two guards to the lots: one who oversees a total of 88 spaces in the main VIP lot and the other who watches only nine VIP spaces, elsewhere.
"Everybody wants something for nothing," said Ellison, who watches the spaces at the main terminal. The security guard said he recognizes many of the VIPs. For some congressmen, Ellison flips through a Capitol Hill publication showing photographs of the members. The book is two years old.
The FAA maintains the free VIP parking at the request of members of Congress, who must travel frequently to their home districts. "You know how parking is. It's almost impossible to find a space," said Risenhoover.
But many citizens, irked at the parking perk, have started to complain, especially when the VIP spaces are not taken.
"It's a real bummer to walk past those empty spaces," said Dulles operations analyst Patrick Chitwood. "I'm sure it rankles anybody who comes from the far reaches of the parking lot."
Chuck Williams, assistant parking manager at National Airport, said, "I'm not awed by congressmen. And I don't think they deserve a lot of the freebies they get."
But Dulles official Ron Buckley noted that Capitol Hill staffers demand special treatment. "Sometimes we'll get a letter from a congressman whose staff aide was charged a parking fee," Buckley said. "We send them a refund."
The amount sent to Congress was usually between "50 cents and $1," he said. CAPTION: Picture, Court of Claims Judge George Schwartz is turned away from Washington National Airport lot reserved for officials listed on the signboard at left. By James A. Parcell - The Washington Post