- Political-action committees gave Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, a greater amount of money, and Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, a greater percentage of his contributions, than other Utah representatives, according to a national watchdog organization.
Citizens Against PACs, based in Washington, D.C., reported that between Jan. 1985 and June 1988, Owens collected $574,076 from political-action committees. Fifty-seven percent of those funds came from PACs with headquarters outside his district.During that same time period, the group said Nielson received more than $181,000. While that's less money than Owens', 72 percent of Nielson's PAC contributions were from political-action committees with headquarters outside his district.
In a recent press release, the group said that most of Owens' PAC money - $195,500 - came from labor interests. Other major categories of contributors to Owens are building, construction and real estate interests, $37,350; and transportation interests, $29,550.
Citizens Against PACs did applaud Owens for co-sponsoring legislation providing for public financing in congressional elections and limits on campaign spending by congressional candidates.
The group questioned why Nielson accepted the money since he has won by an average of 74 percent in the past three elections "and apparently didn't need the funds to win re-election."
Nielson was also criticized for accepting $14,500 from PACs "that have a significant stake in the actions of the Energy and Commerce Committee." That, according to the press release, was an apparent conflict of interest because Nielson is a member of the committee.
The bipartisan citizen group studied the PAC contributions of all members of the House of Representatives. The group was formed in 1984 out of concern over the influence of special-interest contributions and has called for PAC funding to be replaced by money raised through a voluntary taxpayer checkoff.
"The PACs are drowning out the voice of the ordinary voter who can't afford to give large contributions to politicians' campaigns," according to the group's co-chairman, Philip M. Stern.
- Owens' campaign for re-election to a third term in Congress has been endorsed by the Consumer Federation of America. The group gave Owens an 81 percent career-consumer voting record.
"With people like Rep. Owens on Capitol Hill, consumers can be sure that someone is watching out for their financial interests in this increasingly complex financial world," Peggy Miller, a legislative representative for the group, said in a recent press release.
The Consumer Federation of America is a coalition of more than 240 pro-consumer groups nationwide, whose primary role is to represent the interests of consumers before Congress and federal regulatory agencies.
- And Owens' Republican opponent, ice cream company executive Richard Snelgrove, has been endorsed by the Council of National Defense. The group is the largest pro-defense political-action committee in the country.
Council Chairman Michael W. Thompson told Snelgrove in a letter announcing the endorsement that the country's defense and foreign policy has been "based on the simple understanding that strength brings peace when coupled with a realistic anti-communist foreign policy."
The council gave Owens a rating of 8, based on his voting record. In comparison, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, was rated 100 and Nielson, 96 for the past session.