Incumbents' fund advantage under criticism

May 06, 1993|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- With President Clinton preparing to send campaign finance legislation to Congress, two advocates of reform produced a report yesterday designed to show that incumbents enjoy an unfair electoral advantage because of their ability to raise money.

Two representatives from Maryland, Democrat Steny H. Hoyer and Republican Helen Delich Bentley, were near the top of the "spending advantage" list of 287 incumbents who had a "major party challenger" in last November's general election. Mr. Hoyer was also near the top of the study's "PAC advantage" list.

An analysis of campaign finance data compiled by the Federal Election Commission between Jan. 1 and Nov. 23, 1992, the report was produced by two liberal groups, Public Citizen and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

"Competitive elections have disappeared because special interests have chosen to fund incumbents almost exclusively," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a Ralph Nader organization that describes itself as "nonprofit consumer advocacy membership organization."

The report said that Mr. Hoyer, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, who represents Southern Maryland, ranked fifth on the "incumbent spending advantage list," with expenditures of $1.5 million, nearly $1.3 million more than his Republican opponent, Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.

Speaking of the report, Mr. Hoyer said: "Those are the facts." He defended last year's campaign spending, arguing that he was in a largely new district facing an opponent with a famous name (Mr. Hogan's father, Lawrence Sr., had once been a member of Congress representing large portions of the district).

Pointing out that no PAC can contribute more than $10,000 to a candidate, he argued that his larger PAC receipts made him less "beholden" to any single group.

Mrs. Bentley ranked No. 23 on the "spending advantage" list, with expenditures of $903,529, $858,520 more than her Democratic opponent, Michael C. Hickey, Jr. She was far down on the PAC list, at No. 118, with $240,620, $236,620 higher than Mr. Hickey's PAC collections, according to the report.

According to the report, Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore spent $624,545, compared with $621,596 for his GOP opponent, William T. S. Bricker. Mr. Cardin, the report said, received $292,553 from PACs, compared with almost nothing for Mr. Bricker.

Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Montgomery County Republican, spent $297,108, while her opponent, Edward J. Heffernan, spent about $69,000. She received PAC contributions of $183,373, while her opponent collected about $11,000.

Four members of Maryland's congressional delegation were not included because their races did not involve incumbents facing challengers or, in one case, because a challenger apparently spent so little that he did not file finance reports with the election commission.

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