Rick Hawks, whose income dried up when he quit his job as a Baptist minister to run for Congress, has found another source of funds to pay his mortgage ($597 a month) and his utility bills ($295 a month) and to provide himself with $1,000 a month in "candidate living expenses." He is using contributions to his campaign against incumbent Rep. Jill Long (D-Ind.).

Another Indiana GOP challenger, Mike Pence, is doing much the same. And so are Republicans Ken Bell and Ted Blanton in North Carolina. Rep. Beryl Anthony Jr. (D-Ark.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called the GOP challengers' practice deceptive, misleading and "just plain wrong." But the Republicans say the current campaign finance system allows the practice, and that it gives middle-income candidates a chance against the built-in advantages of incumbents.

Moreover, argued Gary Koops, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, incumbents also dip into their campaign kitty to pay for what appear to be personal expenses ranging from country club dues to cars to gifts and meals.

The dispute has highlighted a murky area of campaign finance regulation. The Federal Election Commission has said in several advisory opinions that there is "wide discretion" on how a candidate can spend his donors' money. House rules, however, say that a member can't convert campaign funds to personal use.

The Democratic-sponsored campaign finance bill on which the House is scheduled to act today takes direct aim at the spending habits of Hawks and the other Republican challengers. It includes a provision that would ban candidates as well as incumbents from using campaign funds for personal expenditures such as mortgage and car payments.

That legislation, however, will not address many other uses of campaign funds by incumbents. For example, a Washington Post spot check of recent campaign spending reports by senior House members found the following expenditures:

Anthony sent a $48.79 plant to one constituent's funeral, a $14.14 wedding gift to another's daughter, bought $33 worth of cookbooks for his own fund-raiser and paid $60 for duck calls to be used in a DCCC fund-raiser. "None of it was personal," a spokesman said.

House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) paid $222.01 to the Jacksonville (Ill.) Country Club for a staff Christmas party, $160 to Bradley University for a charity golf outing, and $275.35 to the Palm Restaurant to take an Illinois couple to dinner after they bid $1,100 for a tour of Washington with him at a charity auction, according to his press secretary.

Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the powerful defense appropriations subcommittee, bought more than $10,000 worth of Lenox crystal, nearly $8,000 in clothing, $1,735 in Pittsbugh Steelers, Washington Redskins, and Pittsburgh Pirates football and baseball tickets, $1,335 in chocolates and $937 in other "gifts" during the first 15 months of the election cycle. He narrowly won a close primary in May, in which the underfunded challenger cited the crystal and clothing in denouncing what he called Murtha's "Wheel of Fortune."

A spokesman for Murtha said none of the purchases was for the congressman's personal use. He gave the crystal, clothes and chocolates as tokens of appreciation to campaign workers and donors, he said.

Rep. James Quillen (R-Tenn.), ranking minority member of the Rules Committee, listed $2,407 for "U.T. {University of Tennessee} football tickets for constituents." Quillen said "campaign workers who are constituents is a better word for it. . . . I haven't been to a game in 15 years."

Rep. Carroll Hubbard Jr. (D-Ky.), chairman of the House Banking subcommittee on oversight and investigations, recently paid his wife nearly $8,000 for helping put on a Washington fund-raiser, according to a report in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Last year a Washington Post survey of expenditures found senators using campaign funds to buy Super Bowl tickets, stuff a goose, make $150,000 charitable contributions and pay for thousands of dollars worth of automobiles and meals.

The FEC doesn't audit campaign spending reports, leaving it to lawmakers to decide what can and should be paid for with campaign funds.

Rep. Andrew Jacobs Jr. (D-Ind.), who introduced a bill to ban personal mortgage and car payments from campaign funds, said in an interview that he sees a difference between "inherently personal" expenditures by the GOP challengers in Indiana and North Carolina and spending of campaign funds by some of his Democratic House colleagues.

"A guy taking a salary from his campaign committee has got to be cleared up," he said.

Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.