PACs pour funds into campaigns Big primary winners also had big pots

April 22, 1992|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Maryland's congressmen buried their opponents in a blizzard of special interest money, according to federal records, which show donations from political action committees (PACs) far outpacing individual contributions.

In the hottest contest, Rep. Tom McMillen, the Crofton Democrat running against Eastern Shore Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest for the 1st District seat, is beating his opponent nearly 4-to-1 in fund raising, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Mr. McMillen collected $106,943 during the six-week period, while Mr. Gilchrest pulled in $27,095.

Mr. McMillen now has $324,831 in the bank, compared with $7,634 for Mr. Gilchrest.

PAC donations to Mr. McMillen totaled $80,529, with another $26,014 from individuals. Mr. Gilchrest picked up $11,000 from PACs and $8,410 from individuals. The balance of Mr. Gilchrest's money came from Republican political committees.

Besides Mr. Gilchrest, Reps. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, and Constance A. Morella, R-8th, collected more individual contributions than they did PAC money.

Mr. Gilchrest, who had a home court advantage because the Eastern Shore makes up most of the new 1st District, said he was unconcerned by the disparity. He said he expects to raise $200,000 by the time the campaign is over.

"If I raise $200,000, I think I can get my message out and win the campaign," he said, adding that any more spending would be a "frill."

Mrs. Bentley, a Lutherville Republican elected in 1984, picked up more individual contributions than PAC money between Feb. 13 and March 31, the latest filing period.

Mrs. Bentley received $137,321 during the period, with $85,765 from individuals and $51,550 from PACs. Still, she easily brushed past her Democratic opponent, Michael Hickey Jr., who collected $4,047, none of which came from PACs.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Baltimore Democrat running for a fourth term in the 3rd District, hauled in $70,070 during the six-week period, including $48,250 of that from PACs. Mr. Cardin has $401,000 in reserves. His GOP opponent, former Motor Vehicle Administrator William T.S. Bricker, collected $25 during the period and has $294 on hand.

Rep. Kweisi Mfume of the 7th District, another Baltimore Democrat looking for a fourth term, collected $12,550 during the period, with $9,447 coming from PACs. His Republican opponent, Kenneth Kondner, has yet to collect the $5,000 required to begin filing FEC reports. Mr. Kondner declined to say how much money he has on hand.

The House has approved a campaign finance measure that would cap PAC money at one-third of the voluntary $600,000 campaign limit for House races. Although the Senate is expected to endorse a similar measure when it returns next week, President Bush is expected to veto the measure, largely due to its public funding components and spending limits.

Meanwhile, two Democratic candidates for Congress -- state Del. Tom Hattery and state Sen. Albert R. Wynn -- also are finding the benefits of PAC money early on.

Mr. Hattery, a 6th District candidate who beat 14-year veteran Rep. Beverly B. Byron in last month's primary, collected $85,800, with $67,262 from PACs. Mr. Wynn, who outpaced a dozen other Democrats to win the nomination in the new majority-black 4th District, picked up $62,078, with $46,850 from PACs.

Mrs. Byron, collected $67,804 during the period, with $47,000 from PACs. She received a flurry of donations from both PACs and individuals during the last week of the campaign, when she realized Mr. Hattery had a good chance of upsetting her.

She picked up nearly $20,000 in last-minute PAC money along with $1,000 donations from her Democratic colleagues: Reps. Steny H. Hoyer of Prince George's County, Robert Matsui of California, Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut and Charles Stenholm of Texas.

Mrs. Byron is one of 166 House members eligible to convert leftover campaign money to her personal use by retiring at the end of 1992, under a law passed by Congress three years ago. The law, which applies only to those elected before 1980, allows those members to keep an amount equal to what they had on hand on Nov. 30, 1989. At that time Mrs. Byron had $61,000.

Her campaign now has $8,330 on hand -- with debts and obligations totaling $8,019.

The Frederick Democrat plans to donate any leftover campaign money to charities in her district, said her spokesman, Beau Wright, although the congresswoman has not specified which ones. "There's going to be a minimal, minimal amount" of surplus campaign money, he said.

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