Federal File: On the air again; New look; G.O.P. TV; Payback?

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Using satellite broadcasts to encourage citizen interest in local school reform--and to plug the President's education agenda--was a Bush Administration idea. Last week, though, it was Clinton officials who milked the concept for all it was worth.

A conference for local officials planning for the President's proposed summer-jobs and -education program was held the same day as a "satellite town meeting'' on the school-to-work transition, and the events were promoted jointly.

And in his second broadcast--his first as host--Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley was joined by two special guests: Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich and President Clinton himself. Mr. Bush never favored Mr. Riley's predecessor, Lamar Alexander, with a similar appearance.

Business groups co-sponsored the conference, and some meetings took place in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's building, where the broadcasts have originated since Mr. Alexander began using them to promote Mr. Bush's America 2000 education strategy.

Conference-goers were invited to view the taping in the building's auditorium and to hear remarks by Mr. Riley, Mr. Reich, and Deputy Secretary of Education Madeleine M. Kunin. Mr. Clinton dropped by briefly, too.

At one point, Mr. Reich, positioned with the crowd as a backdrop, fielded questions from among those in the auditorium.

"Here I am on the convention floor,'' he quipped.

Clinton Administration officials made clear that they intended to continue the community-action part of America 2000 when they said in February that the broadcasts would resume--as "goals 2000 satellite town meetings.''

A new element of the repackaging debuted at last week's meeting: a new logo, to replace the red, white, and blue triangle that symbolized America 2000. The "Goals 2000: Educate America'' logo is about the same size and has the same color scheme, but its triangle is a pyramid of square blocks, rather than a series of parallel lines.

As yet, no call-in participants have identified themselves as representatives of a "goals 2000 community.''

Meanwhile, Mr. Alexander hasn't abandoned the concept of rally-by-satellite.

The former Tennessee Governor, now affiliated with a Nashville law firm, has been working to establish the "Republican neighborhood meeting,'' which promotional literature describes as "an outside-the-Beltway, grassroots network of Republican neighborhood meetings tied together by satellite TV.''

Mr. Alexander has said he wants to help shape the party's direction, and that he might run for President in 1996.

A report in the Birmingham Post-Herald, later reprinted by The Washington Times, asserted that 75 Tuscaloosa, Ala., elementary school students were denied tickets to visit the White House because President Clinton is angry at Sen. Richard C. Shelby, D-Ala., for criticizing his economic policies.

However, Mr. Shelby's spokeswoman says it's not true. About 70 children from Woodland Forest Elementary School and about 35 adult chaperones were indeed unable to arrange a special tour of the White House, Tricia Primrose said. But the problem, she said, was that White House policy bars private tours for groups larger than 50, and there's a lot of competition for tour slots at this time of year.

"It's April in Washington, the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and our city is being taken over by tourists,'' she said. "It has nothing to do with the political situation between my boss and the White House.''

A recent report by the Office of Personnel Management, which criticizes Bush Administration officials for bestowing a large number of cash awards on political appointees in the waning months of Mr. Bush's Presidency, singles out the Education Department.

Both political and career workers are eligible for merit bonuses, and the awards were legal, O.P.M. found after Mr. Clinton requested the probe.

The report concludes, however, that there was a "substantial increase'' in the number of awards given to political workers in late 1992 when compared with the prior year, that the justification for many awards was "questionable,'' and that the awards created an appearance of impropriety.

The Education Department was one of six agencies that together gave two-thirds of the awards to political appointees during the study period. It gave 18 such awards, compared with only one the previous year. Only the Energy Department, with 23, had more.

But the average award at the Education Department was only $1,551, below the governmentwide average, $2,902.

Individual recipients were not identified. But O.P.M. did note that the Education Department was one of five agencies that rewarded their inspectors general, a practice O.P.M. argued is, given the watchdog role played by those officials, particularly "problematic.''--J.M.

Vol. 12, Issue 30

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