Utah's three members of the U.S. House of Representatives earn much less than average through honorariums - the fees that interest groups pay to have them make speeches.
According to a new study by the watchdog group Common Cause, rank-and-file House members kept an average of $45,700 during the past five years - or an average of $9,140 a year.However, between 1983 and 1987, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, kept only $25,760; Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, kept $16,000; and Rep. Howard C. Nielson kept $22,555.
But before residents conclude that Utah congressmen earn only chicken feed through honorariums, consider:
-All of Owens' money came in 1987 - the only year in that period when he was a member of Congress. His $16,000 that year was higher than the average $9,140 a year that most members keep.
-Hansen's honorariums took a quantum leap after he joined the House Armed Services Committee and began receiving honorariums from defense contractors. He kept $18,000 in 1987, compared to $7,510 in 1986, zero in 1985, $250 in 1984 and zero in 1983.
Still, Common Cause said that is relatively small pickings. For example, it said 52 representatives kept more than $100,000 each in the period. The study also showed generally that the more powerful the congressman, the more he earns through honorariums and interest groups.
For example, House Speaker Jim Wright kept the most, $127,985; next was Minority Leader Robert Michel, $127,188; and third was Majority Leader Thomas Foley, $115,627.
Common Cause pointed out, "The House Democratic and Republican leadership (including committee chairmen and ranking minority members) on average kept $118,259 in honorarium fees, more than 2.5 times as much as the $45,700 in honorarium fees kept on average by the other 307 current (rank-and-file) members."
Common Cause has continually said honorariums should be banned because they allow special interest groups to buy access and good will. Many congressmen respond that their votes cannot be bought, and that honorariums are needed to help make ends meet in expensive Washington.