Pleading poverty and poor housing, the Federal Election Commission has asked the Office of Management and Budget for a 30 percent increase in its fiscal 1985 budget. The commission claims that it needs $13.6 million, or about $3.5 million more than its fiscal 1984 budget.
The request is sure to put the commission on a collision course with the OMB, which has been tight-fisted with the FEC in the past. The OMB has recommended a $10.2 million budget, but the commission voted unanimously to seek the higher figure from Congress, if necessary.
The FEC says its offices are rundown, its equipment outdated and its staff stretched beyond capacity. It wants to hire 63 more people, spend $850,000 to either renovate its offices at 1325 K Street NW or move elsewhere, and to replace aging equipment, including the microfilm machines used by the press and the public to review campaign finance records.
It also wants $850 to "modestly welcome"--government lingo for wining and dining--out-of-town visitors and dignitaries.
The $13.6 million request is a "meager" one "not lightly sought," FEC chairman Danny L. McDonald wrote OMB Director David A. Stockman. Even with the increases, the commission won't be able to "vigorously enforce the law" or process campaign finance reports in "the most rapid fashion technically possible," he said. That, he added, would take a lot more money.
Without the increase, things will be even worse, he said. Commission auditors, for example, would have to focus "almost exclusively" on campaign finance reports from presidential candidates, and largely ignore those from hundreds of congressional candidates.
In the letter, McDonald also admitted something that many have long suspected--that the FEC doesn't treat everyone equally. Some campaign finance reports have been "less carefully scrutinized than others," he said. "This has led to problems in consistency of treatment and the potential that violations are passing undetected."
There are 214 persons on the FEC payroll. The commission, which has had a hiring freeze in effect for 2 1/2 years, is seeking 277 positions.
SHORT TAKES . . . The budget is the first priority for John C. Surina, the commission's new staff director. Formerly assistant managing director of the Interstate Commerce Commission, Surina succeeded B. Allen Clutter on July 25. . . . About 500 people attended a seminar and workshop that the FEC sponsored in Chicago earlier this month for candidates, political action committees and election law officials. Similar events are scheduled for Sept. 26-27 in Albany, Oct. 24-25 in Charleston, S.C., Nov. 13-15 in Tulsa, and Dec. 4-6 in Los Angeles . . . . Four of the seven Democratic presidential candidates have now been formally certified as eligible to receive federal matching funds: Walter F. Mondale, Gary Hart, Alan Cranston and Reubin Askew. Sens. John Glenn and Ernest F. Hollings have requests pending.***
LABOR CONTRIBUTIONS. . . The AFL-CIO is expected to endorse former vice president Mondale in early October, and his opponents have estimated that the manpower and services the AFL-CIO and its affiliates can provide could be worth between $15 million and $20 million. According to an FEC spokesman, a presidential candidate now can spend up to $19.5 million in the primaries, so the resources of the person winning the endorsement could nearly double.
But if the 1982 congressional elections are a guide, the cash spent in Mondale's behalf may be only a fraction of that. According to a new FEC report, organized labor spent less than $2 million communicating with its members during the congressional elections. The AFL-CIO spent only $311,084, far less than the $806,656 spent by the National Rifle Association.