WHAT CAN YOU SAY about a bill that passed the House or Senate five times in seven years, that was endorsed by President Carter, Speaker O'Neill and 150 consumer, labor, elderly and citizen groups, that the public supported by a 2-to-1 margin in Harris surveys -- and yet was defeated in the House by a vote of 227 to 189 this month?

In a Washington populated by surrogates and symbols, the vote against legislation to create a consumer advocacy office in Washington was widely heralded as a major defeat for Ralph Nader and Carter. But surely this misses the more significant point that it was a major defeat for consumers.

In defeat, though, the consumer movement learned valuable, if expensive, lessons. The reasons for the bill's loss illuminate how power is played out in The City of Results. Why did it lose? Business Lobbying