Reps. Jim Hansen and Wayne Owens enjoy "financially non-competitive" races this year - thanks to campaign laws that favor incumbents, the watchdog group Common Cause said Friday.
But 75 percent of their fellow House incumbents from other states have it even better, breezing through races that are considered "financially unopposed."Common Cause's review of Federal Election Commission forms showed that 296 of the 405 House incumbents seeking re-election - or 75 percent - are "financially unopposed" because either no opponent has filed against them or their opponents have raised less than $25,000.
It said another 86 incumbents, or 20 percent - including Democrat Owens and Republican Hansen - are in "financially non-competitive" races where opponents raised more than $25,000 but have less than half of the war chest amassed by the incumbent.
Common Cause said Owens had raised $539,421 from all sources through Sept. 30 compared to $151,166 for Republican Genevieve Atwood (including $100,000 she loaned her own campaign).
It said Hansen has raised $183,053 compared to $39,604 raised by Democrat Kenley Brunsdale.
"House members are shielded by a wall of political money that makes them nearly invincible," Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer said.
"House incumbents will have a free ride in 1990, largely financed by special-interest political action committee contributions."
Such PACs have given 30 times as much to incumbents this year, Common Cause found. Political scientists say that is because PACs figure they get more bang for their buck by investing with someone already in power.
Differing legislation to limit PAC contributions has been passed by both houses, but agreement on a final package is not expected before Congress adjourns.
Common Cause noted that Owens has received $266,717 from PACs compared to the minuscule $150 that Atwood has received. Hansen received $115,976 in PAC money compared to only $6,500 for Brunsdale.
"While some challengers may tighten the fund-raising gap this fall or win while being significantly outspent, the present campaign financing system provides the overwhelming majority of incumbents with an insurmountable lead," Wertheimer said.
He said that is one reason more than 98 percent of incumbents were re-elected two years ago.
Common Cause also noted that Utah's 3rd District - which has no incumbent because Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, is retiring - also is considered a "financially non-competitive" race.
FEC figures show Republican Karl Snow has raised $121,090 - four times more than the $27,107 raised by Democrat Bill Orton. The 3rd District often is considered the most Republican district in the nation.