Those high-pressure leaks about the budget -- the ones that caused the administration to lift its embargo and release the numbers Saturday instead of today--may have been aided by a misunderstanding between the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Printing Office.
The GPO prints budgets with two kinds of covers. One cover, a limited edition, includes a warning that the information is not to be made public before the embargo time. That edition is the one distributed free and in advance to the press, executive branch departments and agencies, Congress, and some interest groups.
The other edition, with no embargo notice, is sold by the GPO at its bookstores after the embargo is lifted, traditionally at noon Monday.
This year, to save money, OMB reduced the number of free advance budgets and said anybody wanting more than their allotment could buy them. The result: media outlets, and apparently some others, got their boxes of budgets, some free with an embargo notice and some for which they had paid, without the notice.
"We anticipated that problem," said OMB spokesman Ed Dale. "We shipped special labels to GPO to put on those advance copies for groups that had previously been on the free list. GPO didn't put the labels on."
Johnson McRorie, deputy assistant public printer, said he didn't know about the special labels. Those who were supposed to pay for advance budgets, McRorie said, were on a "special invitation list, and the budgets for them were supposed to have the embargo notice."
No matter. "I don't want to leave the impression it was the GPO goof that caused us to lift the embargo," said Dale. "It was the leaks on the Hill. I spent all last night tracking that down. Every copy that went to the Hill was embargoed."