Political action committees of the savings and loan industry, which is seeking billions of dollars in tax breaks, contributed a half-million dollars in 1979 and 1980 to two-thirds of the current members of Congress, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Nearly one-seventh of the total, $74,670, went to 38 of the 55 members of the House Ways and Means adn Senate Finance committees, the two tax-writing panels, which have approved legislation to create tax-free savings certificates.
The S&Ls wanted these to attract large new deposits and ease the strains caused by high interest rates. The estimated annual loss of tax revenues, however, would be at least $4 billion.
FEC records also show:
That the PACs registered by 81 thrift institutions and their trade associations contributed $656,002 to presidential, House and Senate candidates in the 1980 primary, runoff and general elections. More than 75 percent of this ($505,080) went to currently sitting members, including 272 House members and 55 senators who either won election or were not up for reelection.
That the largest recipients were Senate Minority Whip Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), $36,900; Rep. Jerry M. Patterson (D-Calif.), $26,590; Rep. John H. Rousselot (R-Calif.), who got a combined $17,120 for his reelection to the House, where he serves on Ways and Means, and for a failed Senate candidacy; Rep. Fernand J. St Germain (D-R.I.), chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, $15,650, and Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.), $10,000.
That seven senators got between $5,000 and $10,000: Paul E. Tsongas (D-Mass.), $8,450; Jake Garn (R-Utah), chairman of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, $6,400; Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, $6,350; Russell B. Long (D-La.), $6,150; Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, $5,400; Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.), $5,500, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), $5,000.
That four House members also got between $5,000 and $10,000: Henry S. Reuss (D-Wis.), chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Affairs, $8,150; Norman D. Shumway (R-Calif), $7,625; David W. Evans (D-Ind.), $5,900, and Bill Lowery (R-Calif.), $5,350.
That 20 of the 23 Democrats on Ways and Means got a total of $24,400, led by Cecil Heftel (Hawaii), $3,150; six of the 12 Republicans got $23,320, led by Rousselot with $17,120.
That six of the 11 Republicans on Senate Finance got $11,650, led by Chairman Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), $3,500; six of the nine Democrats got $15,300, led by Long, the past chairman, with $6,150.
That $67,650 went to two of the four bipartisan leaders of the Senate and seven of the 19 Republican Senate committee chairmen.
That $43,555 went to four of the five bipartisan leaders of the House and 14 of the 25 Democratic House committee chairmen.
Most critics of the election-financing law draw back from claiming the existence of a cause-effect relationship between campaign contributions adn legislative action or inaction, partly because the interests of large contributors sometimes coincide with those of noncontributors.
Also, some recipients of the S&L PAC contributions received money from financial interests opposed to the tax-free-certificate plan.
At the same time, the FEC figures tend to understate the S&Ls' largess. A Common Cause study shows that the industry, while giving nothing to Senate committee chairmen who were not up for reelection in 1980, contributed large sums to these incumbents when they ran in 1976 and 1978.
In addition, a Congressional Quarterly summary of legislators' reports shows that in 1979 the industry paid legislators a total of $18,900 in speaking fees, exclusive of travel and lodging sometimes provided for them and their spouses.
The recipients included House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) and House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), $1,000 each; Garn, $4,000; Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John G. Tower (R-Tex.), $2,000, and Rousselot, $1,500.