The Federal Election Commission has toted up its figures for the 1982 congressional elections, and the reports bring to mind the old adage: rich or poor, it's nice to have money.
Not only is campaign spending growing at a pace that puts mere inflation to shame, but the money gap between winners and losers keeps widening, too.
Congressional candidates (283 in the Senate and 1,956 in the House) spent a total of $343.9 million in 1981-82, a 44 percent increase over the 1979-80 totals and a jump of 80 percent over 1977-78.
The 471 House and Senate winners spent a total of $184.7 million last year, an increase of 57 percent over the 1980 winners' total. In the meantime, the losers increased their expenditures by only a third.
Money, though, didn't guarantee victory--just ask Adam K. Levin of New Jersey, heir to a shopping center fortune, who shattered all records in House campaigns by spending $2.3 million in an unsuccesful pursuit of the seat held by incumbent Rep. Matthew J. Rinaldo (R-N.J.) of Union.
Of the seven top-spending House candidates last year, five wound up as also-rans: Levin, Republicans Cissy Baker in Tennessee ($1.2 million), Johnnie Crean in California ($1.1 million), John H. Rousselot in California ($990,236) and Margaret M. Heckler in Massachusetts ($966,621). Heckler lost to another big spender, Rep. Barney Frank, who came in No. 2 on the charts at $1.5 million.
The top five Senate spenders were Democrat Mark Dayton of Minnesota, who spent $7.2 million without unseating Sen. David F. Durenberger ($4 million); Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), $7.1 million; Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), $6.4 million; former governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. (D) of California, $5.4 million; and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.), $5.0 million.
Other tidbits from the FEC reports:
* Political action committees contributed $83.1 million to congressional candidates in 1981-82, an increase of 51 percent over PAC giving in 1979-80.
* PACs gave incumbents 3 1/2 times as much money as challengers. In 1980, when business PACs concentrated more on electing challengers and less on protecting business-minded incumbents, the incumbent/challenger ratio was just over 2 to 1.
* Democrats received 54 percent of all PAC money; in 1980, the split was 52 to 48 in favor of Democrats. The explanation is that there are more Democratic incumbents, and PACs like incumbents.
* In total fund-raising from all sources, Democratic candidates maintained their historic edge over Republicans--though by the barest of margins. Democratic candidates raised $178.4 million in 1981-82, while Republican candidates raised $177.6 million. But there were more Democratic candidates than Republicans (1,024 to 846), and the Republicans were better financed in the close races.
* In terms of national party fund-raising, the GOP maintained its lopsided dominance over the Democrats, $215.9 million compared to $39.0 million.
With their money, the GOP made $5.6 million in direct contributions to its House and Senate candidates, and $14.3 million in "coordinated expenditures" to help their campaigns. For Democrats, the comparable figures were $1.7 million and $3.3 million. * * *
LABOR PAC PROPOSAL . . . The FEC recently withdrew from congressional consideration a proposed regulation that would allow labor political action committees to solicit money from union administrative personnel as well as from members.
The commission's retreat was prompted by a "Dear Colleague" letter circulated by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in which he accused the FEC of adopting the change after public hearings had already taken place.
But the retreat is only temporary: the commission is putting the new rules out for a 30-day comment period, and expects to resubmit them to Congress later this month.
The new regulation is designed to cover situations where a candidate comes to a union PAC meeting to make a pitch for money and support. If an administrative officer of the PAC attends, he technically is violating the current law.
A spokesman for Lugar said he hasn't decided whether to object formally to the substance of the proposed rule during the 30-day comment period. PEOPLE . . . B. Allen Clutter, the commission's staff director, is resigning, effective May 15, to take a corporate job in Cleveland. A search is under way to fill his position, an Executive Level IV slot that pays $67,200 per year. CAPTION: Picture, CISSY BAKER . . . $1.2 million in losing Tennessee race. Picture 2, MARK DAYTON . . . spent $7.2 million for Senate, lost