Cables in the files of the U.S. International Communications Agency:

Feb. 26

To: American Embassy Bonn

American Embassy London

From: USICA, Wash., D.C.

Subject: Joel McCleary

1. Agency is pleased to inform posts availability of Joel McCleary, deputy assistant to the president for political liaison for programming March 31-April 8 only . . . He is keenly interested in learning about operational and organizational aspects of major political parties in (Britain) and (Germany).

Feb. 28 action copy

To: USICA, Wash., D.C.

From: American Embassy Bonn

Subjects: Joel McCleary

1. Post accepts in principle March 31-April 5 dates for McCleary visit. Agency should note that Federal Parliament other (German) agencies, universities, etc. begin Easter recess on March 30. This will limit available of preferred audience during period McCleary in Bonn . . .

Joel McCleary, a midlevel White House aide for domestic politics, was out of town on business last month.

He was in Bonn and Berlin and London.

At least one senior White House staff member had thought McCleary was in the Europe on vacation. But McCleary's office was candidly telling callers he was overseas on official business: studying the structure of European political parties. And actually, it was the U.S. International Communications Agency that was picking up the tab, as part of a program in which it tries to bring Americans of note together with foreigners of note, over breakfasts and lunches and dinners and cocktails.

McCleary spent one week in West Germany and England doing that, and then he decided to stay in Europe for much of the next week as well, just traveling around and paying for his own food and lodgings before returning to his White House office on his g* overnment paid ticket.

"I know it sounds like a junket," McCleary said recently - and here he has a point. "But it was really not. It was very valuable . . . My trip was brutally scheduled."

For McCleary's trip, the U.S. government paid $1,583 - $751 on travel, $782 on his per diem allowance (he received no per diem after April 7), $50 miscellaneous. (This was in addition to his $48,500 White House salary.)

"I know you can say, 'Why are we spending money on a trip like this when the president is saying we must cut back on federal spending?" McCleary said - and here too he has a point. "But, the money for this program has already been budgeted and approved."

McCleary found the trip beneficial. In part for the new insights he got about the politics in Europe - "in Germany they have tight party control," he said with some envy, "a really locked grip."

The account of McCleary's trip to Europe is worth [WORD ILLEGIBLE] because of illegality or scandal - there does not seem to by anything so serious involved - but because so [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in Washington never seem to change. White Houses have always been, and remain, places of perks and politics - whether the occupants are big on denim and populism or herringbone vests and country clubs.

Just a few years ago, McCleary was a philadelphia school teacher of modest means and no Washington expertise. He caught on with the presidential campaign of a Georgia politician, who was striking a responsive chord with Americans by taking strong populist stands against government that caters to a privileged few.

For his loyalty to Carter insider Hamilton Jordan, McCleary, then 28 years old, was rewarded by being named treasurer of the Democratic Party, and he was pleased that the job paid him a nice salary plus an expense account at the exclusive Britches of Georgetown clothing store, which he once explained was necessary so he could dress to mingle with fat cats.

He moved on to his present White House job, and while, in the perquisite sense, he has lost his Britches, he affords a worthwhile example of how in a lean, spare White House, virtue can produce its own rewards.

"We were pleased getting McCleary," said ICA spokesman Michael Pistor. "We try in this program to get the practitioners together with writers and professors People really like to mix with the practitioners."

Part of the service provided by the USICA bureaucrats was that they helped get Jimmy Carter's political aide to mix with American Democratic Party practitioners who live abroad but vote - and make campaign contributions - back home.

Feb. 28

To: USICA, Wash., D.C.

From: American Embassy London

Subject: Joel McCleary

1. Port glad program McCleary April 5 and 6, leaving Saturday April 7 day and evening free . . . Would McCleary be interested in meeting representives of Democrats abroad? If so post can arrange appointment if he desires.

Mar 9

To: American Embassy London

From: USICA, Wash, D.C.

Subject: Joel McCleary

. . . McCleary interested in meeting "Democrats Abroad" representatives and suggests possibility of arranging this on Saturday evening [WORD ILLEGIBLE] open advise.

Mar. 20

To: USICA, Wash., D.C.

From: American Embassy London

Subject: Joel McCleary

. . . Mike McNulty of Democrates Abroad invites McCleary to cocktail party Saturday, April 7, 18.00.20.00 at his house . . . London Request you ask McCleary and advise us soonest.

"What I did was invite some of the active members of the Democrats Abroad plus a few people we were looking to for campaign contributions - you know, bankers and lawyer types."

Michael McNulty is talking on the phone from London, where he is based as a representative of an American business corporation and where he serves as chairman for the United Kingdom group of the Democrats Abroad.

"Joel was quite effective. He just sort of preached the Democratic gospel . . . He served notice that he'd be here raising money in the future . . . So we didn't exactly pass the hat that night."

At USICA headquarters in Washington, agency spokesman Pistor conceded that it is clear from the cables that the agency had used its good offices to help a White House pol get together with Democratic stalwarts abroad. "But is [the cocktail party] was not an embassy or ICA function." he said. "it was their nickel.

He added: "We do this for all politicians who travel abroad in conjunction with one of our programs - regardless of which party they belong to."

Back at the White House, there was a time when press secretary Jody Powell - upon hearing that McCleary was in Europe - figured he was there on vacation. But now having studied the situation the White House spokesmen bestow their official approval. "We feel it was completely appropriate that Joel McCleary go on the trip," said deputy press secretary Rex Granum, "and know of no questions . . . raised that would indicate otherwise."

And while the White House expresses propriety, the files of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] are filled with official ecstacy.

April 11

To: USICA Wash., D.C., Priority

From: American Embassy Bonn

Subject: Joel McCleary

. . . The German journalists obviously enjoyed and found highly useful the opportunity to question McCleary . . . McCleary pulled no punches in his response to tough, sensitive questioning . . . His candid replies, thoughful comments and ability to place problems issues into historical frameworks stimulated his audience to look at the White House from a new and more objective perspective than has heretofore been the case.

April 10

To: USICA, Wash, D.C.

From: American Embassy London

Subject: Joel McCleary

1. Post delighted with results of April 5.7 visit of Joel McCleary . . . McCleary was energetic and excellent young Carter administration spokesmen who did much to offset media impression of naive inexperienced. "Georgia Mafia." He was both articulate and serious, yet relaxed and amiable.

. . . McCleary also seemed pleased with results, eager to return abroad under ICA auspices, and willing to suggest similar ICA-sponsored trips to administration colleagues.