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US official charges Watt entertained with US funds

Interior Secretary James Watt misused almost $9,000 of government funds last year when he and his wife entertained guests at the Custis Lee Mansion, overlooking Washington, the US comptroller general said.

A General Accounting Office report estimated that $8,842.20 was improperly diverted from Interior Department appropriations and from the Cooperating Association Fund of the National Park Service for the two private, catered functions.

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A spokesman for Mr. Watt said: ''We carefully researched the propriety and procedures for those events. . . . If the GAO came to any other conclusion, then the GAO was in error.''

Interior officials used the two unauthorized funding sources to pay for a Dec. 14 breakfast which Mrs. Watt held for Cabinet wives, and a Dec. 17 Christmas party the Watts gave for top administration officials and Republican Party workers, according to the GAO report.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D) of Massachusetts, chairman of a House Interior oversight subcommittee, scheduled a hearing Friday on the report and said: ''Since GAO indicated Secretary Watt broke the law, I expect him to come to the hearing with checkbook in hand, ready to reimburse the federal Treasury.''

But Watt has already refused to appear and labeled the hearing a ''publicity stunt,'' according to House staff sources. They also said he has forbidden his staff members to be interviewed by subcommittee investigators.