The current campaign financing system for members of Congress means incumbents cannot lose and opponents cannot win, says the vice president of a national lobbying group.
In 1986, 981/2 percent of incumbents seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives won - partially because the campaign financing system favors incumbents, Randy Huwa told the Utah chapter of Common Cause Friday night."We may have more turnover due to death than defeat at the polls," he said. "We have . . . almost a permanent House of Representatives."
Huwa said that during the first 18 months of this year's campaign, incumbents in the House seeking re-election received $47 million from political action committees while challengers received only $3 million.
In last year's elections, he said House incumbents outspent challengers 21/2 to 1 and still ended up with a surplus of $48 million after the election. Challengers spent $41 million on their campaigns - less money than incumbents had left over.
"The present system is rigged," he said. "There is no real accountability in Congress because of lack of competition." Special interest money from political action committees creates a campaign finance system that allows paid vacations for congressmen and leads to misuse of congressional staffs, he said.
Huwa said the campaign finance system should be changed to place legal limits on campaigns. The basic reforms should include a limit on overall spending, a limit on PAC contributions and a limit on other resources for candidates, he said.
Many Congressmen begin their careers by saying something should be done about the campaign finance system, he continued, but over the years their resistance slowly declines. But Huwa said "change is in the wind" and he told the Deseret News he believes a bill that will change the system will pass in 1989.
Huwa said that in the past, Republicans have fought bills that would change the system because of the limits on overall spending. "If we can break that deadlock, then I think we can work it," he said.
"Republicans who have long defended PAC systems are now having second thoughts. They are wising up and starting to look at the numbers."
Huwa said that in 1986, the average campaign winner in the Senate spent $3 million. "That's $10,000 a week (to raise) for six years. That takes its toll," he said.
"We're almost there, keep going," Huwa said to Common Cause members, encouraging them to contact their Congressmen. "Stick with it. Keep at it. Keep bothering them and keep pressuring them."