Members of Congress and their Capitol Hill office staffs have the worst record for contributing money to the fund that solicits donations from federal employes on behalf of the United Way and dozens of other private charities in the Washington area, according to fund records and officials.
Last year nearly 60 percent of all federal workers here gave money to the Washington-area chapter of the Combined Federal Campaign, the government-designated organization that has the sole responsiblity for charitable solicitations among federal employes, according to the group's records.
By contrast, only 7.7 percent of congressional employes and officeholders -- including senators and representatives and their administrative and legislative aides and clerical staffs -- donated to the Combined Federal Campaign in the Washington area, the records show.
The chief reason cited by congressional spokesmen for Congress' poor participation rate is that most Capitol Hill employes still identify with their home districts and prefer to give to local charities in their home states rather than to Washington-area groups, which are the chief beneficiaries of the Combined Federal Campaign here.
"A lot of our staff -- over half of it -- is from New Mexico," said Louis Gallegos, administrative assistant to Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), whose office is listed as not giving anything last year. "Anytime you're going to make a charitable contribution, there is a bias or tendency to give in-state. As a consequence they do not participate with the Combined Federal Campaign for this area." Gallegos said Domenici regularly gives to three charities.
However, Combined Federal officials expressed skepticism that Congress' low contribution record, particularly among the Capitol Hill staffs of House and Senate members, is due to donations being made in home districts rather than in Washington.
"It's sort of a traditional built-in excuse that people have been using for years," said William A. Schaeffler, director of the Combined Federal Campaign here for the last five years. He said that many aides are professionals who simply move to another staff when the congressman they worked for leaves Congress.
"They live here for all practical purposes," Schaeffler said. "If they work for a congressman from Peoria, they probably never lived in Peoria."
Schaeffler said he regularly receives complaints from other Combined Federal officials from around the country that Capitol Hill staffers are not contributing to Combined Federal campaigns in their home states, either. He said it also indicates that Hill staffers might not be giving to United Ways in their home states because, unlike in the Washington area, the officials running the Combined Federal campaigns elsewhere usually direct the United Way drives, too.
Schaeffler said that 64 percent of the Army, Navy and Air Force personnel stationed here last year, another group whose members could be considered transitory Washington area residents, contributed to the 1980 campaign -- a participation rate nine times greater than that of Congress.
This year's campaign is now under way and thus complete records are not yet available.
Over the last five years, the participation rate for Congress has been 8 percent, the lowest of any federal agency or department, including the White House, according to Combined Federal officials.
"My God, that's disgraceful," said Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), whose office was one of the top Senate contributors to the Combined Federal Campaign last year. DeConcini said he contributes to several charities in his home state, but also gives to the Combined Federal Campaign here. "I think it's part of supporting the community," he said.
In the House last year the long list of those not giving anything to the campaign includes the office of Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House's Combined Federal Campaign for the last two years, and the office of Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), a cochairman of this year's campaign, according to Combined Federal records.
Speaker O'Neill sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to all House members Oct. 1 urging their participation in this year's campaign.
Informed that Combined Federal records show that O'Neill's office did not make any contributions last year, O'Neill press aide Christopher J. Matthews said: "The speaker is generally very wary of pressuring his staff.
"I really don't want to be put in a position of saying where Tip gives his money to," Matthews said, but "Tip is a pretty generous fellow."
In the Senate, Combined Federal records show that among the top five leadership positions, only the office of Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.), an honorary general vice chairman of this year's Combined Federal Campaign, reported any contributions -- five donations totaling $117.
The donation record of Washington area congressmen is mixed. Three of the 10 offices of Maryland and Virginia House and Senate members serving last year made no donations, according to Combined Federal records. There were no contributions from the offices of former Reps. Herbert E. Harris (D-Va.) nor are there any from the offices of Rep. Marjorie S. Holt (R-Md.) and Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), according to the records.
However, spokesman for several of the local legislators said the lawmakers, as well as some staff members, contributed instead to the United Way and similar charities in Maryland, Virginia and the District. Former Rep. Joseph L. Fisher (D-Va.), who said he gave directly to the United Way instead of the Combined Federal Campaign last year, stated that, unlike giving to the United Way in other parts of the country, donating to the United Way in Northern Virginia is the same as giving to the Combined Federal Campaign here because it in turn gives to the United Way.
However, such direct United Way donations do not show up on Combined Federal records.
"We really have the reverse of 'I gave at the office.' We gave at home," said Harry Nicholas, administrative assistant to Rep. Barber B. Conable Jr. (R-N.Y.), a vocal supporter of volunteerism, a concept that favors privately sponsored social programs over government ones. Combined Federal records list two contributions totaling $160 from Conable's office last year and Nicholas said Conable contributes to "several United Ways back in his district."
An aide to Michel said that the congressman and staff members also gave elsewhere.
Two of the top three Senate office contributions came from two senators who represent states well outside the Washington area: the office of Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), 31 contributions totaling $4,317, the largest amount given in either house, and DeConcini's office, $1,281 from 22 people.
The largest contribution from a House member's office staff came from Rep. Donald J. Pease (D-Ohio), whose aides raised $1,377 from 11 people.
The office of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) had the highest total of Washington-area lawmakers, $2,200 from 33 people. In addition, 18 people in the office of Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) gave $1,000, while three people contributed $210 in the office of Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (I-Va.), according to Combined Federal records.
Six people in the office of former representative Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.) contributed $309 and four people in former representative Fisher's office gave $198, the records show. One person in the office of Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) donated $300, according to the records, but a Fauntroy aide said "at least six people" recall making unspecified donations. An aide to Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.) said one staff member made a donation to the Combined Federal Campaign, but the records for congressional gifts do not reflect such a contribution.
Established as the result of an executive order issued by President Kennedy in the early 1960s, the Combined Federal Campaign was created as the federal employe equivalent of the United Way, which traditionally receives the vast majority of the combined campaign's contributions.
Last year, for example, the United Way here got $10.2 million -- about 82 percent -- of the $12.4 million collected by the Combined Federal Campaign. Other groups receiving money included CARE, United Cerebral Palsy, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Capital Children's Museum and the Women's Legal Defense Fund.
Among federal departments, the top givers last year included the Department of Treasury($628,848), the Department of Agriculture ($564,567) and the U.S. Postal Service ($539,217). In all three departments, more than 70 percent of the employes contributed, according to Combined Federal records.
In contrast, Congress raised $63,449 from its 11,869 employes, according to Combined Federal records. The Treasury and the Postal Service have significantly more employes than Congress, with nearly 17,000 in each department. But the Agriculture Department, which has almost exactly the same number of employes as Congress, raised nearly nine times as much, according to Combined Federal records.
Included in the $63,449 raised in Congress is nearly $9,300 donated by such offices as the clerk of the House, the offices of the Senate sergeant-at-arms and the secretary of the Senate, groups that are not part of the staffs of House and Senate members.
O'Neill's aide Matthews said he was surprised that Combined Federal records on each congressman's office were open to the public.
"I'm amazed that this is put out," Matthews said. "I thought these things are supposed to be personal and private."
Schaeffler said that Combined Federal's rules do not permit it to release the identity of individual contributors, but it will make available the total contributions of specific working groups, such as the the offices of each senator and representative.