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Post your opinions on the November races

Survey: House incumbents face woefully underfunded challengers

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, October 19) -- Two-thirds of House members running for re-election this fall have campaign war chests at least 10 times larger than their challengers, according to a report based on filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance group, says the findings are based on financial reports filed by candidates through October 1.

Campaign finance

In about 280 races, incumbents enjoyed fund-raising advantages of 10-1 or greater.

Sometimes the advantage was even more pronounced, with challengers reporting virtually no campaign money in nearly 180 contested House seats.

Stockpiling contributions ahead of a race can be especially valuable for incumbents because it makes a potential challenger think hard about jumping into a race where the main opponent has a huge war chest.

And the average size of war chests for 1998 candidates is growing. The survey found Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif) to be leading the way, with nearly $3 million on hand.

The survey found the two top House fund-raisers for 1997-98 were Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia), who raised $3,795,983, and Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri), who was close behind with $3,129,544.

Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said his group also tracked the sources of campaign donations, and found a strong link between a member's committee assignment and industries that the lawmaker is supposed to regulate. Makinson said it's not just a one-way game.

"Members of Congress understand the dynamics extremely well," Makinson told a news conference Monday. "That's why in case after case after case, if you look at these profiles of where incumbents are getting this money, there's a very strong correlation to their committee assignments in Washington."

And he pointed out why the public should be concerned. "The first place they go to raise this kind of money is the industries they're supposed to be regulating," Makinson said.

The survey also found political action committee contributions have been very important to House candidates, making up nearly 40 percent of their revenues in 1996.


Monday, October 19, 1998

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