WASHINGTON -- Unable to get the keys to the government's transition office, Texas Gov. George W. Bush is relying on the kindness -- and the money -- of friends.
His embryonic transition team is setting up shop in a building owned by DreamLabs, which specializes in helping start-ups get off the ground.
"This is their specialty, helping people get started," said Juleanna Glover Weiss, Bush's deputy press secretary.
But even the expertise of building managers and friendships with devoted supporters cannot hide the essential oddity of this particular presidential transition. Normally, a transition team could hit the ground running, walking into a federally funded office, completely prepared with phones, faxes, computers and all the other accouterments of power.
At the makeshift offices in McLean, Va., the Bush team is starting from scratch.
Boxes are being unloaded. Cell phones are necessary , because land-line phones are not yet installed. Volunteers have been emptying supplies from their cars, including items such as large boxes of toilet paper, foam cups and coffee makers, a microwave with wires dangling from it. Even stacks of pink office chairs.
"There is usually a whole support service (the General Services Administration),"said Weiss. "We've got nothing but our wits and lots of good friends across the country."
Meanwhile, the 90,000 square feet of office space in downtown Washington, operated by the GSA, the federal government's office manager, remains unused because the Clinton administration decided that it should not be occupied until doubt about the election winner has been removed.
"We've been working for months to prepare the transition offices," said Gary Caruso, regional GSA director for congressional and public affairs. "Once we have a president-elect, he and his staff can walk in and start working right away."
Approximately 20 minutes away from the GSA-prepared offices, the Bush transition effort is located in a quiet, largely residential neighborhood, minutes from vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney's northern Virginia home.
The offices opened Wednesday but most staff members did not arrive until Thursday morning. By midafternoon, staffers and volunteers were still moving in.
A man from a local business services company came by to donate office supplies. Next, a brown-suited man from a parcel service wheeled in several loads of boxes. Volunteers made way for him, announcing that the boxes had arrived from Austin, Texas.
Meanwhile, in the front lobby, four women sat behind two folding tables, issuing passes for the building and signing up interested volunteers.
By noon Thursday, about 50 staff members had arrived and about 70 people had come in to sign up for volunteer positions at the transition headquarters, Weiss said.
A number of the staffers are from Austin or have worked with Cheney or former President Bush's administration. Most of the volunteers, however, are from Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C.
One of the Bush supporters signing up volunteers was Penny Cottrell, a homemaker from Springfield, Va. Cottrell, who spent the weekend protesting in front of Vice President Al Gore's Washington home, said that she recognized many of the volunteers who had arrived throughout the day as fellow campaign workers.
Clay Johnson, who will head the transition operation as executive director, is expected to arrive in the next few days. Johnson, a friend of Gov. Bush from his Yale days, has been serving as his chief of staff in Austin.
The transition team is "moving into the offices, working out computer bugs and beginning the process of deciding what policies and personnel we should have on inaugural day," Weiss said.
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