Skeptics who suspect their federal tax dollars support do-nothing government agencies need look no further than the Thrift Depositor Protection Oversight Board.
Created in 1989, the relic of the thrift crisis was entrusted with supervising the Resolution Trust Corp., which was abolished Dec. 31, 1995, after completing its mammoth cleanup of the savings and loan industry.
Congress left the oversight board intact mainly to supervise the Resolution Funding Corp., which floated $50 billion in long-term bonds between 1989 and 1991 to pay for the thrift bailout. That and minor reporting mandates are slated to keep the agency in place until 2030-at a cost of roughly $255,000 annually.
Fearful of accusations of wasting tax dollars, the Clinton administration wants to eliminate the agency and reassign its remaining responsibilities to the Treasury Department.
"There's no reason to keep it in existence as a separate entity anymore," said John D. Hawke Jr., who as Treasury's under secretary for domestic finance is the oversight board's acting chairman.
His fellow board members, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo, agreed.
At their urging, House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach, R-Iowa, introduced legislation in late July to scrap the agency. A committee hearing and vote is expected in early September.
Under the bill, Treasury would assume the agency's job of overseeing the bonds. The oversight board's seat on the nine-member Affordable Housing Advisory Board would be eliminated.
The board's current obscurity is a far cry from the heady days of the thrift bailout, when it was led by then-Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady.
The board's seven members fought battles for tens of billions of dollars to resolve failed thrifts and hashed out controversial policies such as using RTC funds for early resolutions of troubled institutions.
The oversight board had roughly 40 employees and a budget of $6.1 million in 1992.
Today things are much quieter.
Like a soldier in the Cold War left at a forgotten outpost, Acting Executive Director Van B. Jorstad continues to toil in solitude, pumping out occasional reports. Mr. Jorstad, formerly a Colorado banker and special assistant to the RTC's general manager in Chicago, joined the board in early 1993 and is looking for a job in the private sector.
The agency's headquarters has been moved to a one-room office in a nearly empty downtown building, the former home of the defunct Interstate Commerce Commission. Mr. Jorstad has 10 chairs, a conference table, six coat hangers, and an American flag - all to himself.
Glossy photos of President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin are his only companions.
In the last three years the agency has published one regulation, which governed procedures for Resolution Funding Corp. book-entry securities, according to the Federal Register. It has held no meetings since the merger of the RTC into the FDIC at the end of 1995, Mr. Hawke said.
Although some criticized the agency as a needless bureaucracy from its inception, Mr. Hawke said it performed important tasks for the public. But the agency's job has long since been completed, he added.
"That is why we are proposing to get rid of it," Mr. Hawke said.