Some folks at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission were concerned when they got a memo from Commissioner Robert H. Beatty Jr. about the Washington, D.C., AIDS Ride 4.

Beatty's March 19 memo, on his home stationery, said he was going to be part of "a very special and powerful event to help fight the battle against AIDS." Beatty said he wanted to bike 330 miles from Raleigh, N.C., to the District starting June 24, but to be eligible, he had "to raise $1,900 in pledges by June 9" for the Foods & Friends program and the Whitman-Walker Clinic.

"If you would like to make a contribution," he wrote, "please give me a call or feel free to stop by my office any time."

He recently sent a "Fund Raising Update . . . to thank all of you who have contributed to this worthy cause, and to remind everyone that the deadline for contributions is June 9, 1999." He reported getting $600 as of May 25. "I am enclosing an additional pledge form and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Any contribution would be greatly appreciated."

No doubt it would, but what about the Code of Federal Regulations, 5CFR.2635.808 at (c)(1), where it says federal employees may not "personally solicit funds or other support from a subordinate"?

Commission spokesman Richard Baker says that doesn't apply, because only the commission chairman has the "responsibility for managing the agency." The other four commissioners don't have any authority over the employees--other than the two they directly supervise, Baker said, "so we saw no problem with what he was doing."

Our tipster asked whether we knew of other similar agencies where this fund-raising goes on. We called around to several other boards and commissions. Couldn't find any with that same situation.

At one agency, a senior official said perhaps the law doesn't technically cover commissioners, but "this doesn't pass the common sense test." At another agency, a senior official said it wouldn't happen at his agency. Besides, any commissioner could move up to chairman--either after an election or with the resignation of the chairman--he noted.

Well, the mine safety office employees folks don't seem too worried. As of Friday, Beatty had raised only half the $1,900 and if he doesn't get the rest by race time June 24, he's going to have to pony up himself.

Rubin Off to Council on Foreign Relations

Outgoing Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin is setting up shop temporarily at the Council on Foreign Relations offices in New York while he looks for permanent work. His chief of staff, Michael Froman, is going to work at the Council on Foreign Relations, thinking deep thoughts as a senior fellow at the council's office here.

Who's in Charge Here?

Quick Loop Quiz: Who was acting secretary of state Friday with Madeleine Albright, deputy Strobe Talbott and No. 3 Thomas Pickering away from Foggy Bottom. Stumped? Okay. It was Undersecretary for Management Bonnie R. Cohen.

Another 'Niggardly' Controversy

Environmental Protection Agency employees may not want to miss the "Town Hall Meeting on Diversity" scheduled for Friday at the Arena Stage. EPA chief Carol Browner said "the program will include a presentation by me; highlights of two success stories . . . and time for employees to ask questions."

No doubt some may want to ask about the simmering controversy in the Air Enforcement Division over branch supervisor Mario Jorquera's use of the word "niggardly" at the weekly branch meeting on Tuesday.

"The word was used in the context of its meaning 'cheap,' " environmental engineer Rhonda Maddox, an African American, said in an e-mail after the meeting, but "I still found it to be very offensive, because this word is very similar to 'Nigger.' . . . I am requesting that you inform others in the branch" that she finds the word offensive "and would like for them not to use it."

Jorquera apologized and e-mailed that he "will not use it again in your presence" and would alert other employees. "Still, I am very bothered that many words that add color and variety to our conversation and writing are becoming off-limits because people don't know what they mean," he said, "or because they sound like something bad. Niggardly is not and has never been a pejorative term, and my use of it today was in its correct context. I thought I was free to buck this unfortunate trend in a meeting with nothing but highly educated college graduates. I guess I was mistaken." The next day, Maddox sent Jorquera another e-mail wondering about that "trend." Jorquera on Thursday e-mailed branch employees apologizing and thanking Maddox for "making me aware of her concerns."

Just when you thought we'd heard the last of that controversy.

Women Barely a Quarter of Top Hill Staffers

Despite the women's movement, the percentage of women in the top jobs in the Senate and House is still only 27 percent, according to a new survey out today in the National Journal of nearly 300 top committee and leadership aides--some of the least-known but most powerful people in town.

Women hold about one-third of the Senate's top committee and leadership aide jobs, but barely over 20 percent of those on the House side--and there's no difference between Republicans and Democrats.

"The typical staffer is a 40-something male who's more likely to be from the Northeast than the West," the Journal said.