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Steinbrenner does his part for politics

Consider it money well spent.

American Ship Building Co. chairman George M. Steinbrenner steered more than $50,000 to candidates for federal office in the last three elections, election records show.

The beneficiaries included several members of Congress who helped American Ship obtain $58.3-million last week. The congressionally approved money will cover American Ship's unexpected costs in building two sets of Navy ships.

Among the recipients: Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Rocks Beach, who got a total of $1,500 from Steinbrenner in 1990 and 1991 and was the businessman's chief advocate in Congress; and Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who received $3,000 from Steinbrenner in 1990 and 1992 and $1,000 from American Ship's political action committee this year.

Steinbrenner's generosity knew no ideological bounds. He contributed to President Bush's presidential campaign in 1988 and again this year. But he also gave to liberal Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and 1992 congressional Democratic challengers Karen Thurman and Peter Deutsch of Florida.

Large contributions from people doing business with the government are neither unusual nor illegal. Steinbrenner pleaded guilty in 1974 to violating campaign laws in connection with contributions to Richard Nixon's re-election campaign. Steinbrenner was pardoned by President Reagan in 1989.

_ DAVID DAHL

Get complaining

down to a science

Got a beef with a bill collector? Need to chew out an insurance adjuster? Had it up to here with Medicare claims forms?

Get it all down on paper in record time with the help of some new computer software. Parsons Technology, a Hiawatha, Iowa, software company, has developed Personal Advocate, a program that generates 38 of the most commonly written letters of complaint or inquiry.

The lawyer-designed software can be used with many IBM or compatible personal computers.

There are generic letters of complaint to be sent to businesses, the Better Business Bureau or attorney generals' offices. You can request removal from direct mail advertising lists, challenge your credit report, complain about unnecessary Medicare billings and even demand child support or alimony payments.

To find out where to mail the letters, the database contains more than 2,500 names and addresses of consumer contacts at major corporations, most government and consumer agencies, and even congressional delegates.

The cost of fighting city hall _ a mere $69 _ would be a bargain for any government gadfly or chronic complainer.

_ DENISE L. AMOS

Brother, can you spare

a corrugated box?

Economists everywhere check the unemployment reports, retail sales numbers and consumer confidence statistics, but some rely on more unusual indicators to help them gauge which way the economy is going.

Lynn O. Michaelis in Tacoma, Wash., tracks demand for corrugated boxes. Jay N. Woodworth of New York watches passenger counts on weekday 747 flights to Tokyo. Wayne D. Gantt in Atlanta weighs the New York Times. He also likes to know how many companies are being cited by fire marshals for stacks of unsold inventory so high they block the sprinklers.

The New York Times turned up the indicators in a survey of attendees at last month's meeting of the National Association of Business Economists. Unfortunately, few of the signals economists mentioned are pointing to economic revival.

_ HELEN HUNTLEY

Zero dollars _ going

once, going twice .

.

.

What if you held an auction and nobody bid?

That's what happened to a property on Race Track Road in northwestern Hillsborough County.

More than 300 undeveloped acres next to the Tri-County Business Park went on the block last week. About 30 people showed up, but no one made a bid, said Allen Jarboe, manager for corporate special assets for Barnett Banks Inc. in Jacksonville.

The land was to be part of a business park project conceived in the 1970s by veteran Tampa Bay developer Charles Rutenberg. It ended up with Barnett after the bank foreclosed last year.

One part of the park is doing well, with about 85 businesses and 1,500 employees. Now Barnett will try to market the land, Jarboe said.

How about another auction?

"No time soon," he said.

_ JOHN CRADDOCK

No plan yet, but

plenty of disaster

Managers at Beckwith Electric Inc. were planning to start work last week on a company disaster plan. Unfortunately, the first committee meeting was pre-empted by a real disaster _ the tornadoes that whipped through Pinellas Park and destroyed Beckwith's manufacturing plant.

"We wanted a plan to deal with everything from minor problems like losing the phone system to coming to work and there's no building there," said Robert Pettigrew, president of Beckwith's products division. "Now we've got that last one figured out. We'll just remember what we did this time and do it again."

Beckwith has moved into temporary facilities. Pettigrew hopes production of the electronic equipment the company makes for electric utilities will resume this week.

_ HELEN HUNTLEY

Don't worry about me,

just watch my money

Americans are more likely to risk their lives than their money, says Shearson Lehman Brothers.

Thirty-four percent have risked their lives, while fewer than 20 percent have taken a "really big" financial risk, according to a survey conducted by the Roper Organization for the New York brokerage firm. Men were twice as likely as women to be risk takers.

_ HELEN HUNTLEY

Honeywell sweetens deal

for workers with children

Honeywell Inc. may be shrinking its work force, but it's boosting the benefits for those employees who remain.

The technology firm's Space Systems Group in Clearwater already has an on-site partnership school in cooperation with the Pinellas County school system that handles 85 children in kindergarten through second grade. Due to demand by Honeywell workers, the company will probably add a third grade, said Curtis White, Honeywell's director of human resources.

What's more, on Jan. 11 look for Honeywell to open an on-site day-care center capable of handling 97 children.

_ ROBERT TRIGAUX

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