U.S. House incumbents seeking re-election in 1990 had $204 million in available campaign resources through Sept. 30 - more than eight times that available to their challengers, a Common Cause study shows.
Challengers nationwide had a total of more than $24 million."The pattern in Utah is similar to the pattern all over the country in terms of campaign contributions," said Ann McBride, senior vice president of Common Cause. "It's a system that perpetuates itself and is corrupting our government."
"We want to really focus on this," McBride said, speaking before a group of Common Cause members at the University Park Hotel. "We want to change the way in which congressional campaigns are financed. That's our main goal."
"The extraordinary campaign finance advantage that House incumbents have over their challengers is corrupting our political process to the point where we won't have real elections for the House of Representatives in 1990," said Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer in the study.
Available campaign resources for the 406 incumbents running for re-election include $58 million in leftover money from their 1988 campaigns, plus an additional $146 million in funds raised from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 of this year, the study shows.
Campaign resources available through Sept. 30 for the 331 House challengers include $51,753 in leftover money from 1988 campaigns, plus nearly $24 million raised during the 1989-90 period, the study said.
The study, released Thursday during the 20th anniversary observance of the citizens' lobbying organization, also found House incumbents raised almost $70 million from political action committees from Jan. 1, 1989, through Sept. 30, 1990 - nearly half their total receipts for this period.
The almost $70 million raised by incumbents from PACs was nearly 19 times the $3.7 million in PAC contributions raised by House challengers during the same period.
The study also found the fund-raising gap between incumbents and challengers grew tremendously between 1988 to 1990.
House incumbents also reported campaign expenditures of $96.9 million from Jan. 1, 1989, to Sept. 30, 1990, while challengers reported campaign expenditures of $20 million during the same period, the study showed.
McBride said it is essential to the health of the American political system that comprehensive campaign finance reform be the first order of business of the 102nd Congress.
"We don't have elections in this country anymore," McBride said. "What we have is a challenger-proof Congress. We've got to change the system to reduce the power of PACs and provide alternative resources to candidates to level the playing field."
The study is one of a series of campaign financial reports produced by Common Cause Campaign Finance Monitoring Project for the 1990 election period.
Finances of congressional candidates
Common Cause listed campaign finance activities of Utah candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives for the period Jan. 1, 1989, to Sept. 30, 1990:
Total From PACs Spent On hand
HANSEN $200,803 $135,476 $105,446 $86,337
BRUNSDALE 93,742 45,000 75,414 10,170
OWENS $680,210 $351,272 $677,072 $74,627
ATWOOD 210,038 6,850 193,230 14,781
ORTON 42,165 13,500 34,916 7,306
SNOW 178,565 37,650 171,690 6,598