Federal Workers Big Source of Campaign Funds

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The campaign fund-raiser at the National Democratic Club last March was, in most respects, like scores of others: For $500 a head, party loyalists got to sip wine and beer while speakers urged them to help make Al Gore the next president.

What made the Capitol Hill event stand out was that many of the donors worked for the government's Agriculture Department. And the evening's headline attraction was their boss, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

This election year, federal employees are playing a new and growing role as a wellspring of cash for the candidates who would like to oversee them. That worries some campaign finance watchdogs.

"When a presidential candidate asks governmental employees in the administration to contribute, how can they possibly say no?" said Ellen Miller, a longtime campaign finance reform advocate. Government work, she warned, could become "public service with a price tag."

As an occupational group, federal employees rank among the top donors to the campaign of Vice President Gore. And they gave a surprising amount to his Republican rival, George W. Bush, to whom no federal employees owe allegiance.

Gore has raised $546,311 from 825 federal employees, according to an analysis by the Campaign Study Group of Springfield, Va. …