IN this era of government downsizing, you might get the impression that lobbyists are the only ones in Washington tossing money around.
Recently, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, a handful of reporters wandered through Room 740, the Presidential Suite. Here, amid Italian marble floors and Chippendale chairs, countless heads of state have slumbered: The Reagans, the Carters, the Gorbachevs, and most recently, Lady Margaret Thatcher.
Oh yes, Mick Jagger crashed here, too.
But on Inauguration Day next January, when Washington again becomes ''planet limousine,'' the doors of this often exclusive palazzo will be swung open to the hoi polloi; or, to be accurate, those of us common folk who can afford to pony up $30,000.
At a time when Washington's politicians, like pinstriped Visigoths, are aiming to sack this city of bureaucrats, the Ritz-Carlton's ''Presidential Package'' might just be the last gasp of conspicuous consumption east of the Pentagon.
Here's what you get for the wallet-whacking price: five days and four nights in the suite, a chauffeured Rolls Royce, 24-hour butler service, breakfast served in the canopied featherbed, beluga caviar, and two-dozen roses.
On top of that, you'll receive a navy-blue terrycloth bathrobe to wear to the jacuzzi, complimentary tuxedo pressing, an in-room fax machine - and, of course, a chance to play ''don't look now, but...'' over lunch at the exclusive Jockey Club eatery downstairs.
The capper: dinner for 12 on inauguration eve in the suite's private dining room.
But perhaps the most priceless aspect of this package is how far the hotel staff will go to cater to your every request. According to Steve Haden, the Ritz-Carlton's public-relations director, the hotel is famous for performing extraordinary feats of service.
In fact, he says, a Ritz-Carlton computer keeps profiles of all former guests, which includes a list of their personal eccentricities. If you like Twizzlers, you'll get a fresh bag on your pillow. If you like your room at 43 degrees, you'll be able to see your breath upon arrival.
According to Mr. Haden, as long as it's legal and won't disturb the other guests, they'll do it - a mantra that has led to some weird arrangements in the Presidential Suite.
One foreign leader, whom Haden declined to name, insists that because of his religious beliefs, all the windows in the suite must be draped with black silk to block the sun.
Another guest demands that four telephone books be stacked under each bedpost. Still another frequent customer insists on cleaning the suite herself: Upon her arrival and departure, Haden says, the hotel delivers yellow rubber gloves, brushes, and cleaning solvents to the room on a silver tray.
On inauguration day, Haden says, the room will be festooned with balloons, streamers, and ready-made confetti. A stereo system will be wired to play ''Hail to the Chief'' ad nauseum, if the celebrants so desire.
But what if the inaugural host wants, say, to bring a live donkey or elephant up to the suite to brighten up the evening's celebration?
''As long as it could fit in the elevator, that would be fine,'' Haden says. ''We're used to accommodating animals.''