What Senator Wishes He'd Left Unsaid About Lobbyists

As the Senate debated tax overhaul on Monday, Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) made this observation on the Senate floor: "Another thing our reading clerk told me last week . . . when he went out in the anteroom there were no lobbyists. They are gone. They by and large have given up on this bill," totally convinced that senators had closed their ears to the pleas of special interests.

But then Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) cautioned his colleague not to borrow trouble. "I will say to my good friend, the senator from Oregon, do not issue any challenges to lobbyists about not being here because we may have more of them around than you want in that case."

Packwood responded that it was "good advice. I would withdraw the remark from the record if that were possible." A Nuclear Family . . .

A recent study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a watchdog agency, reported that companies with a direct interest in nuclear power have contributed nearly $10 million to candidates for the House and Senate in the past five years.

The big winner of this sweepstakes on the Senate side was deficit-buster Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who has received $120,266 since 1981, followed by Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), $83,900; J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), $79,700; James A. McClure (R-Idaho), $78,925; and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), $62,350.

The top House recipients were Reps. Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), $67,925; Bill Chappell (D-Fla.), $63,750; James R. Jones (D-Okla.), $60,950; Jack Fields (R-Texas), $60,113; and Charles Wilson (D-Texas), $56,700. Just a Hunch . . .

The strange case of Peter Voss, the vice chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors who pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks and embezzling, got marginally stranger last week when board chairman Albert V. Casey described the means of his downfall to the Dallas Times Herald.

The embezzlement charges concerned Voss' habit of flying tourist class and billing the Postal Service for first-class fare, to the total tune of $43,817. Whereas the kickback scheme was discovered through an intensive investigation launched last spring, the embezzlement was found out by a lowly postal inspector who just happened to spot Voss on a flight from Washington to Florida -- on budget-rate Presidential Airlines. "He said, 'What the hell is Voss doing here? He's supposed to fly first class.' "