On Sept. 16, just two days after Elizabeth Hanford Dole announced that she would leave the Cabinet on Oct. 1, a legislative aide to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a memo describing four grant applications Iowa had pending before the Department of Transportation. "We have identified the following projects that we feel are ones that might be done with the time left for her to act," Ed Redfern, the aide, wrote to Grassley.

Grassley, the aide no doubt thought, would have some leverage with the outgoing secretary: he has endorsed and provided key organizational support in Iowa to her husband, Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), in his bid for the GOP presidential nomination.

"In light of the secretary's resignation, Sen. Grassley wanted an indication of what grant requests were before DOT and what could be taken care of before her departure to insure such grants would not be waylaid, or pushed to the back, or allowed to fall through the cracks during the transition," Grassley spokesman Allen L. Finch said.

Finch said Grassley did not attempt to contact Dole directly about the pending applications, and that all dealings were conducted "at the staff level."

Perhaps Grassley should have become involved himself. Elizabeth Dole left her job, and none of the grants has been approved. One, a request for cash to extend the airport runway at Grinnell, appears likely to be rejected, according to Grassley aides, and the rest remain in bureaucratic limbo.