John C. Culver, Class of 1954 and the senior senator from Iowa, was called. John Brademas, Class of 1949 and the House majority whip, also received a call. Chuck Daly, a former Harvard vice president, called his friend, Rep. James C. Corman, on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former faculty member and now New York senator, helped to sponsor the amendment in conference.
Most universities would be content to have the Speaker of the House of Representatives as their congressman, but Harvard is not most universities. Hundreds of miles from the brick walls and iron gates of Harvard Yard, the university is at home in Washington, and its lobbying efforts are a major footnote to the windfall profits tax signed into law Wednesday.
Harvard failed to win its point, but as the song goes, the Crimson "fought fiercely." When Corman was too busy to meet in Washington, Derek Bok, Harvard's president, turned up in Los Angeles for a breakfast with the California Democrat.
What made the stakes so high was a relatively inconspicuous amendment that would have meant millions of dollars a year in savings for Harvard's new "total energy plant" in Boston, a $150 million project that has been delayed by environmental reviews and opposition from Brookline and Mission Hill residents.
Close to $112 million has already been spent on the plant, and by selling tax-exempt bonds, which carry lower interest rates, through the state, the university hoped to reduce the cost of financing the project.
"Basically what it amounted to was giving Harvard a $70 million tax subsidy," said Rep. Fortney H. (Pete) Stark, a California Democrat and member of the House side of the windfall profits conference with the Senate. "They decided to build that power plant before we got into windfall profits, and it wasn't as if we were saving energy by giving it to them."
Altogether, 13 institutions, including Harvard Medical School and several area hospitals, are to be served by the cogeneration plant that will produce heat, electricity and air conditioning. The university argued that any savings would be passed on in lower patient costs -- costs that are paid in many cases by the government.
"It will benefit not Harvard alone, but Harvard and all of the hospitals," said Edward Lashman, director of external projects for the university. "It will mean all of us save with lower costs."
From the start, the Harvard amendment was a long shot, both because of the politics of the windfall tax bill and because the university was trying to insert its own language into legislation that had already reached a House-Senate conference.
The windfall bill, which was signed into law by President Carter, will raise billions of dollars from oil company taxes, and the Senate initially tried to use this money to finance a wide variety of special tax provisions tacked onto the bill.
One of these was an amentment by Sen. David Durrenberger (R-Minn.) to encourage energy-conserving electric power plants such as Harvard's which will produce heat for buildings as a byproduct of the electricity-generating process. The university sought to amend Durrenberger's amendment to cover the investment Harvard has already made in the plant.
House members have long resisted such tax-exempt financing, and Stark and Corman, both members of the Ways and Means Committee, resisted the proposal, which Moynihan sponsored. Since the senator is from New York and not Massachusetts, his role surprised some observers, but it reflects the far-flung loyalties Harvard and other universities try to tap.
Harvard first began its effort through Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr.'s office in January, but O'Neill, whose district includes the university, was not alone.
James Dinneen, Raytheon's connection on Capitol Hill, also turned up but fairly late in the game. Raytheon, a major defense contractor, owns United Engineers in Boston, which is doing the design work on the Harvard plant, and Charles F. Adams, a top executive in the company is a Harvard graduate and former overseer.
Dineen came out of Boston College a year behind O'Neill and has used that connection as an influential lobbyist in Washington. The most adamant opponent of the Harvard amendment was Stark, who is from the Class of 1953, not of Harvard but MIT. Stark's graduation was delayed when he was kicked out of school for his part in a prank.