Donations flow to state's congressmen HD: Common Cause shows incumbents' financial edge

October 09, 1990|By Mick Rood | Mick Rood,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- When it comes to campaign finances, the eight members of Maryland's House delegation are on easy street compared with their challengers in the November general election. And this pattern holds nationally, according to Common Cause.

In a survey of 1989-1990 campaign contributions thus far, Common Cause found that 95 percent of 403 incumbents seeking re-election this fall are either "financially unopposed" or are engaged in races that are "financially non-competitive."

Common Cause, a public interest group that focuses on governmental ethics, defined "financially unopposed" as being unopposed or having an opponent who has raised less than $25,000.

It defined a "financially non-competitive" race one with a foe who has raised more than $25,000, but who took in less than half of what the incumbent had.

In Maryland, only one challenger, Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest of Kennedyville, had raised more than $25,000 through Aug. 22. He is challenging Rep. Roy P. Dyson, D-1st, who has raised $413,000.

Gilchrest has raised more than $48,000, placing the contest in the "financially non-competitive" category. But that may change because national Republican Party officials have vowed to pour in funds against Dyson, whom various polls have shown to be vulnerable.

Robert P. Duckworth, of Crofton, the Republican challenging Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, has attracted about $21,000 in contributions. But McMillen has amassed more than $600,000, the highest amount raised by a Maryland member of the House.

In the other six House races in Maryland, none of the challengers has raised or spent more than $5,000 each, meaning they don't have to file financial disclosure reports.

The six incumbents in these races and the money they raised are Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, $525,034; Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, $428,000; Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, $415,000; Beverly B. Byron, D-6th, $228,000; Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, $169,000; and Constance A. Morella, R-8th, $404,000.

In all, the Maryland House delegation has raised a total of $2.8 million, compared with the $71,000 their general-election opponents have collected.

"Whatever public anger and anti-incumbent sentiment may exist among citizens around the country, House members are shielded by a wall of political money that makes them nearly invincible," Fred Werthheimer, president of Common Cause, said a statement.

For more than a decade, Common Cause has been seeking public financing of congressional races and seeking to reduce or eliminate contributions from political action committees representing special interests.

In the survey, Common Cause found that incumbents get almost vTC half of their election funds from PACs. Incumbents enjoy a 30-1 advantage over opponents in PAC contributions.

In all other kinds of contributions, including those from individuals and political parties, the advantage for incumbents is a much narrower 5-1 ratio.

Common Cause found only 23 congressional races in which challengers had raised at least 50 percent of the amount contributed to incumbents.

Traditionally, 97 or 98 percent of sitting House members who decide to run again get re-elected.

Voter registration

Information for the Nov. 6, 1990, general election. Deadline for registration: 9 p.m. tonight. How to register: Fill out a registration application at the election board in your jurisdiction. Applications also are available at most state agencies and office buildings but applications must be postmarked no later than today, the registration deadline.

Who is eligible to register: Any U.S. citizen residing in Maryland who is or will be 18 years of age by Nov. 6, 1990, and who is not disqualified by a criminal record or under guardianship for mental disability.

Change of address: A resident who changes addresses and remains in the same jurisdiction must notify the election board in that jurisdiction. If a person moves to a new jurisdiction, he or she must reregister with the new election board.

Baltimore City: 396-5550

* Anne Arundel County: 222-6600

* Baltimore County: 887-5210

* Carroll County: 857-2080

* Harford County: 838-6000

* Howard County: 313-2727

* State Election Board, Annapolis: 1-800-222-VOTE

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