WASHINGTON -- Promises are cheap. It's results that count.

That's why it is hard to get excited about prospects for the congressional Infrastructure and Public Finance Caucus that was formally unveiled last week by Rep. Beryl Anthony, D-Ark., Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Rep. Don Sundquist, R-Fla.

The concept itself is certainly excellent and the latest plan is an improvement over the original outline conceived by Rep. Anthony last March.

The initial idea was limited to educating legislators about municipal bonds to provide a core of support for bills that would ease some of the curbs imposed on tax-exempts in 1986. This focus gave some the impression the causus was designed to help Wall Street underwrite more bonds.

But the focus of the caucus has wisely been expanded to include rebuilding and repairing the nation's decaying infrastructure, as well as easing curbs on public finance.

The two topics form a natural linkage that should be mutually beneficial. Congress cannot consider ways to replace the nation's infrastructure without discussing how to help states and localities finance their share of that redevelopment.

At the same time, lawmakers can't discuss financing without identifying specific public works problems and needs.

But having a good concept isn't enough.

If the Infrastructure and Public Finance Caucus is going to develop enough clout to convince Congress to give states and localities better financing tools to replace their ailing infrastructure, it has to mount a massive campaign to sell its proposals.

Unfortunately, most of the more than 100 congressional caucuses now in existence do not have good track records.

While several are highly respected, most of them do not do substantive research or lobbying and are frequently accused of existing only to crank out occasional press releases that tout their narrow interests.

If the new caucus is going to succeed in convincing a majority of lawmakers to approve legislation to shore up infrastructure and public finance, it must do more than issue press releases.

The caucus members will have to roll up their sleeves and produce credible research on the problems of infrastructure and its financing, hold hearings and seminars on those problems, and then circulate the results by the volume to the rest of Congress.

After doing all that, the caucus will still face what Rep. Anthony calls the "hard sell" of convincing both Congress and the Bush administration to make the tough choices needed to find funding for expanded infrastructure projects and eased financing.

Unless the caucus goes all out to sell its message, the effort could be just another hollow promise.

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