Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, who just ran the most expensive U.S. House campaign in Utah history, has introduced two reform bills to create a "campaign-spending freeze."
One is a constitutional amendment that would lengthen House terms from two to four years, which he said "would not only cut campaign costs in half but allow Congress to legislate without having to divide its concentration on the nearly perpetual campaign."His second bill would give some public financing to candidates who voluntarily limit spending to no more than $540,000 in a general election. Owens spent $913,529 on his 1990 election.
Through a tax checkoff system similar to that used to finance presidential elections, Owens' system would give House candidates an estimated $180,000 in public money.
But they would have to limit contributions from special-interest political action committees to $180,000. Owens received $422,783 from PACs for his 1990 race.
Candidates would also have to limit the total of contributions larger than $100 each from individuals to $180,000. To encourage small donations, contributions of less than $100 from individuals would not be counted against spending limits.
"In a war of words and wallets, we are escalating toward uncontrollable cost proliferation. It is time for a mutually verifiable campaign-spending freeze," Owens told the House.
"House and Senate races alone cost $450 million in 1990, a four-fold increase since 1976. In my first election for the House in 1972, I raised $130,000. In the last cycle in 1990, I was forced to raise more than $900,000."
In other words, Owens had to raise nearly $9,000 a week for two years to fund his last campaign.
"Money does not influence how we vote. But the constant chase for contributions interferes with our responsibilities as legislators. We are raising too much. We are spending too much," he said.