Donors to the campaign of Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, provide enough so it can pay him $750 a month to rent a cabin he owns for use as his campaign headquarters.

Meanwhile, his main opponent, Democrat Scott Beierlein, has to make $200-a-month, in-kind contributions to his campaign to allow use of part of his home as its office.That's one of the many advantages of incumbency that showed up in campaign financial disclosure forms made public this week.

Such financial advantage comes mostly because incumbents, as usual, are attracting big money from special-interest political action committees - groups that are often directly affected by the committees on which the incumbents they support serve.

Challengers attract little money from such PACs. So they often have to skimp on the extras - or even necessities - or use money from their own pocket to try to keep up.

So while donors to Hansen's campaign allow it to pay $356 a month to lease a campaign vehicle for him, Beierlein makes a $600 a month in-kind contribution to his campaign to use his own car.

Why do PACs donate heavily to incumbents and not challengers?

A powerful lobbyist once talked about that during a quiet moment at a fund-raiser as long as his name wasn't used, although what he said isn't exactly a secret.

He said PACs that he works with want to spend money where it can buy the most influence and access to power. Spending on incumbents brings twice the bang for the buck. It supports a friend now - and brings access and influence now - and may keep him in office, keeping that influence in the future, too.

He said spending on challengers is risky. They may never be elected, and the money on them might be largely wasted. And it could upset incumbents who hold power now.

So it's no surprise, for example, that incumbent Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah, received $53,350 from PACs during the past three-month reporting period - or three times as much as the $18,000 from PACs raised by his challenger, Democrat Lily Eskelsen.

(Of note, Eskelsen actually raised more from individuals - $45,825 compared to $26,153 for Cook. But Cook's PAC donations allowed him to outraise Eskelsen overall by a margin of $79,900 to $67,825 during the latest three-month reporting period. Cook leads $211,820 to $201,710 for the whole campaign.).

Hansen raised $25,000 from PACs in the past three-month reporting period. Beierlein raised $0. He says he's trying to raise some, but it's tough.

To keep up, Beierlein - a financial consultant - donated or loaned $90,414 himself to his campaign through March 31. That has allowed his campaign to have income of $116,060 so far from all sources compared to Hansen's $117,472.

The difference, of course, is Hansen hasn't had to put any of his own money into his campaign (and, in fact, the campaign is paying him some money for such things as the office rent). And he's made $57,750 from PACs so far in this campaign.

Hansen serves on the House Natural Resources and National Security committees. Of the $25,000 in PAC money he received the first quarter this year, $7,000 came from PACs directly affected by Resources and another $7,000 came from defense industry PACs.

Cook - the only other House member from Utah with a seriously contested race - serves on the banking and transportation committees. Of the $53,500 he received in PAC money the first quarter, $18,450 came from financial industry PACs and $4,450 came from transportation industry PACs.

Beierlein, like many challengers, says campaign laws as they now exist "are nothing more than incumbent protection acts." So he's taken out a second mortgage and is using savings to compete.

He had planned on chipping in $100,000 of his own money. But he's already put in $105,000 - counting $15,000 he loaned it last week.

He, like many challengers, is also not quite going first class in spending like some incumbents.

For example, he passed on such purchases as the $466 television and the $154 microwave oven that Hansen's campaign reported making. It should help it watch ads that PACs help buy, and show that his campaign can really cook with PAC money, too.