Except for one overwhelming common trait, there is little that the staid country lawyer, Rep. William H. Ntcher (D-Ky.), can share with the witty word-smith from up north, Rep. Andrew Jacobs Jr. (D-Ind.).
Different backgrounds and constituencies, different political ideas and different aspirations make Natcher and Jacobs as diverse as other members of the House of Representatives.
But both agree that government, particularly the House in which they live and work, costs too much money. Everyone in Congress talks about government that way these days, but Natcher and Jacobs do something about it.
They run two of the most frugal offices in the Congress, driven seemingly by a desire to set personal examples of economy. In a legislature where members' costs rise daily, Natcher and Jacobs are going the other direction.
Natcher, 70, is the House's champion low-spender. He has the smallest, lowest-paid staff in Congress. His office expenses are less than any other House member's. No business lunches, no rented car, no frills.
He comes from a relatively "safe" district in south-central Kentucky and has had only a couple of serious challenges since his election in 1953.Since his first swearing-in in January 1954, he has never missed a House roll call or a day of action on the floor -- a record.
Jacobs, 48, gets along with a staff almost as small as Natcher's, although he pays his employes more. Except for one term, 1973-1974, he has been here since 1965, a liberal representing conservative Indianapolis.
Each expresses it differently, but a common strain runs through conservations with Jacobs and Natcher. They see themselves as privileged men, picked by peers for the highest honor of citizenship -- public office.
"I don't have a press assistant, a legislative assistant or an administrative assistant. There's where the big salaries are," Natcher said. "I do all that myself. Those people in Kentucky sent me up here to work. It's my money as wel as everyone else's that I don't spend."
Jacobs put it this way: "I love this work. It's the kind of thing I like to do and I'm fortunate the people of Indiana will let me to it. There are expenses around here that make sense . . . but I'm confused why it is necessary to take any more than the basic amount to carry out the function of office."
No doubt about it, Jacobs is different.
After his election in 1964, one of the first things he did was tell the Veterans Administration he would no longer accept his Korean War disability pay. Double dipping, as it's called, disturbs him.
When Congress voted itself a raise in 1969, Jacobs declined to accept it. Ditto subsequent salary raises in 1977 and 1979. He pays tax on the higher salary, but sends the balance back to the Treasury each month.
"I get $44,600 and I think I'm in the lap of luxury," he said.
When others in Congress were adding staff on top of staff, Jacobs actually was letting people go. When others were expanding district offices, Jacobs was surrendering space in his Indianapolis quarters.
At a time when House members are finding ingenious new ways to spend their annual expense allowances, Jacobs shudders. He's stopped sending out newsletters, he pays for entertainment and unfrankable mail from his own pocket, he collects no mileage for driving around his district.
"My district is home. I derive pleasure from being there, driving the streets where I took my dates, passing the corner where I got poked in the eye as a policeman," he said. "How can I collect mileage for that?"
There's another clue to Jacobs' attitude toward the job he holds. His name is not on his office door and his staff answers the phone by saying "Eleventh District of Indiana Office." The office belongs to the people.
Natcher spends less than anyone else in the House to keep his office going. He could have spent $293,199 for 18 full-time employes and four part-timers last year -- the official allowance. He got by with six office workers here and two in Kentucky, whose salaries came to $72,111.
From his basic expense allowance of $40,000, plus add-ons for distance from Washington, Natcher spent only $16,437. Jacobs, in contrast, spent $32,170 on expenses and $261,175 on staff salaries.
"I just don't see how you can put 18, 20, 22 people in an office and operate," Natcher said. "Eighteen to 20 people on a payroll is not necessary. We average 300-plus first-class letters coming in every day and we are up to date in responding. We keep our mail in good shape."
Natcher himself administers the office.He arrives early each morning and goes through the mail. If an editor or reporter needs to be contacted, he does it. If he is worried about a vote, he studies the issue himself.
"I could have a legislative assistant who could give me a memo each day, outlining an issue and suggesting how I ought to vote. That is not me. I have no trouble with voting," he said. "I could do this and other things with the allowances I have, but I don't. This is your money and mine."
Natcher's frugality, limiting his total expenses for office and staff last year to $88,548, put him in a class by himself. The next-lowest spender was Delbert L. Latta (R-Ohio), with $183,547 -- almost $100,000 more than Natcher.
Other leading House tightwads were Melvin Price (D-Ill.), $213,233; Charles E. Bennett (D-Fla.), $214,449; Larry Winn Jr. (R-Kan.), $240,487; Lucien N. Nedzi (D-Mich.), $242,789; Tom Steed (D-Okla.), $284,645; Walter B. Jones (D-N.C.), $290,171; Jacobs, $293,344; Harley O. Staggers (D-W.Va.), $299,071, and J. Willia m Stanton (R-Ohio), $302,936.
Common characteristics among these members are that most are House veterans, from districts where there has not been intense electoral competition and in which the incumbent has not needed to use his "official" spending to retain high visibility.
A review of 1979 records for the 435 members and four nonvoting delegates in the House shows the economizers tend not to send newsletters, don't lease cars at home, don't take themselves and constituents to lunch, don't operate mobile offices, don't charge their accounts for sympathy cards for the bereaved or congratulatory letters for graduates and don't spend extra money on stamps -- all routine expenditures among the rest.
He might find quick argument from his brethren about the cost of being a congressman, but Natcher has a firm idea. "There's not a member here who couldn't do the same thing I do," he said. "I brought my self-respect with me and I'm taking it back to Bowling Green, Ky. I won't leave it here."