The 25 most costly House campaigns broke all spending records even before final financial returns were in, a Washington Post analysis shows.
Twenty-five congressional candidates built a costly new addition to the House by spending a record $13.6 million. And that doesn't include any spending between Oct. 15 and Election Day, a busy period for some candidates.
Some spent huge sums battling each other. Others threw money at financially puny opponents. And three candidates, who spent a combined $1.4 million, fell by the wayside in primaries or runoffs.
In Tuesday's elections, as in earlier ones, money talked only sometimes, so that a frequent but not automatic correlation emerged between spending and winning among the top 25 or, for that matter, many other House candidates.
Just one of the 25, two-term Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.) spent by Oct. 15 nearly $1.5 million, or 11 percent of the total, to defeat Democrat Carey Peck, son of actor Gregory Peck, for the second time in a row. Peck ranked 23rd on the top 25 list with $401,343.
Dornan paid $403,529 just for postage -- $2,186 more than Peck's outlays for everything -- and $502,739 to mass mailing, printing and other enterprises associated with right-wing fund-raiser Richard A. Viguerie.
In their first round, Dornan and Peck were nearly financial equals, with neither making the top 25 list. In the 24-month period ended Dec. 31, 1978, Dornan spent $291,762 or only 20 percent of his total for the 21 1/2-month period ended Oct. 15. Peck spent $308,017, or 77 percent of his 1979-1980 total.
Dornan is not the first million-dollar candidate in a House race. In January 1978, a court in New York City held that Bella Abzug had won the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat vacated by Edward Koch when he ran for mayor. She defeated -- by six votes -- Carter Burden, who spent $1,136,112. That exceeded the outlay of the second person on the 1978 top 25 list by $364,809.
These are highlights of a Washington Post analysis of the top 25 spenders in the 24-month cycle of each House election 1972 through 1978 and the 21 1/2-month preelection cycle for the 1980 elections will not be available until early next year.available until early next year.
The dollar figures, adjusted for loans and other factors that skew gross spending totals, come from the Federal Election Commission for the 1976 through 1980 contests and from Common Cause for the 1972 and 1974 races.
No adjustment was made, however, for inflation. If it and the costs of advertising and other campaign items went up in lock step, it took $165.92 in September 1980 to buy what $100 bought in September 1974, and $126.29 to buy what $100 bought in the same month of 1978.
Also not taken into account were so-called "independent expenditures," such as newspaper advertisements, in behalf of candidates forbidden by law from consenting to such outlays or cooperating with those who made them. Suggesting the significance of independent expenditures is the FEC's figure of $4 million for those made by the top three right-wing political action committees solely in the first 9 1/2 months of 1980.
The inflation and independent expenditure caveats aside, key comparisons of the top 25 spenders in the five biennial House elections -- primary, runoff and general -- follow.
Total spent: 1972, $5.4 million; 1974, $5.2 million (down 3.6 percent); 1976, $7.8 million (up 48.5 percent); 1978, $12.4 million (up 60 percent); 1980 (21 1/2 months), $13.6 million (up 9.6 percent).
Average spent (the percentage changes are the same as above): 1972, $217,397; 1974, $209,576; 1976, $311,192; 1978, $497,668; 1980 (21 1/2 months), $545,498.
Biggest single spender: 1972, Rep. Paul N. McCloskey Jr. (R-Calif.), $321,558; 1974, Rep. Robert C. Krueger (D-Tex.), who in 1978 lost a race for the Senate, $311,953; 1976 Gary Familian, a California Democrat defeated by Dornan while outspending him, $637,080 to $403,675; 1978, Burden, the New York Democrat who failed to be nominated after spending $1,136,112; 1980 (21 1/2 months), Dornan $1,484,668 (Dornan, in the three races combined, spent nearly $2.2 million).
Second on the 1980 top 25 list was House Majority Leader Jim Wright $521,221). Third was Rep. James C. Corman (D-Calif.), $643,291 (beaten by Republican Bobbi Fiedler); Jack Fields, a Texas Republican, $621,399 (he defeated Democratic incumbent Bob Eckhardt), and Rep. Bill Royer (R-Calif.), $614,806 (he lost to Democrat Tom Lantos). Neither Fiedler, Eckhardt nor Lantos made the top 25 list.
The top 25 list included seven Democratic incumbents who spent a combined $4 million and six GOP incumbents who laid out $3.9 million. Democratic challengers or contestants in open races -- five, in all -- spent $2.7 million, while four GOP counterparts spent $3 million. The others, as noted, didn't survive pre-November races.
In both House and Senate races, large proportions of candidates' outlays were made possible by record contributions by PACs to campaign treasuries.
One indicator of the extent came for a Common Cause study of Senate campaign financing between Jan. 1, 1979, and Sept. 30, 1980, including 18 (of 34) races in which candidates' totalreceipts ranged from $1,029,221 to $2,721,383 (for Sen. Alan Cranston, a California Democrat who won reelection.)
Among Tuesday's Senate winners, contributions from PACs of all kinds totaled $5,597,971 through Sept. 30. Their defeated opponents got $3,085,341, or only 52 percent as much.
Among the winners, the proportion of PAC contributions to total receipts ranged up to 67.9 percent for North Dakota Republican Mark Andrews and among the losers up to 45.1 percent for Democratic Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Also getting at least 40 percent of their money from PAC's were Sens. John A. Durkin (D-N.H.), who lost, with 47.6 percent, and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who won, with 42.7 percent.
In dollar terms, the four biggest recipients of PAC contributions in Senate races were Iowa Rep. Charles Grassley, who took in -- through Sept. 30 -- $504,809, and defeated Iowa Democratic Sen. John C. Culver ($224,735); Rep. Steven D. Symms, the Idaho Republican who got $468,450 in unseating incumbent Democrat Frank Church ($148,471); Indiana GOP Rep. Dan Quayle, $438,487 vs. the $363,655 received by Birch Bayh, the Democratic incumbent he defeated and Sen. Herman E. Talmadge (D-Ga.), who spent $407,919 in a race he lost to the GOP's Mack Mattingly, a challenger whose PAC receipts were a mere $13,475.
Corporate PACs each played key money roles, contributing -- in either the 18- or 20-month period starting Jan. 1, 1979 -- $3.7 million to Senate candidates and $7 million to House contenders. They outspent union PACs by $1.26 million in Senate races and by $2.83 million in House races.
The top two recipients of corporate PAC monies, Rep. John E. Porter (R-Ill.) and Ways and Means Chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.), together got 3 percent of the total of such financing of House candidates. The same proportion prevailed for the top two recipients of union PAC contributions. California incumbent Corman and Wisconsin challenger Gary R. Goyke, both Democrats.
Porter, with corporate PAC contributions of $105,925, defeated Democrat Robert A. Weinberger, who got $100, but $47,200 from union PACs. Ullman, with $105,413 from corporate units, lost to GOP challenger Dennis A. (Denny) Smith, who got $8,000 from corporate units and nothing from union PACs.
Corman, with $75,108 from labor PACs and $49,115 from corporate units, lost to GOP challenger Fiedler, who got nothing from labor PACs but $31,650 from corporate units.