Voters may be more inclined these days to vote out incumbents, but that sentiment has not been translated into financial problems for politicians seeking reelection. Ninety-four percent of House incumbents who are seeking reelection -- 382 of 405 -- are either "financially unopposed" or in "financially noncompetitive" races, according to a Common Cause study set to be released today.
"Whatever public anger and anti-incumbent sentiment may exist among citizens, House members are shielded by a wall of money that makes them nearly invincible," said Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer. "House incumbents will have a free ride in 1990, largely financed by special-interest PAC contributions."
Common Cause defined the "financially unopposed" as incumbents whose challengers had raised less than $25,000 going into the fall campaign. This group of 296 included 78 incumbents who have no major party opposition. Common Cause defined "financially noncompetitive" races as contests in which challengers had raised more than $25,000 but less than half the amounts raised by incumbents.
Of the 405 House incumbents seeking reelection, only 23 are in races that Common Cause described as financially competitive. In Illinois, where there are hotly contested gubernatorial and Senate races, 20 of 22 House races were in the financially unopposed or financially noncompetitive categories. Only Rep. George E. Sangmeister (D), who narrowly won his first term in 1988, is in a financially competitive race. The other race is for an open seat.
According to the study, incumbents have nearly $177.5 million in total campaign resources, including almost $58.2 million in campaign funds left over from 1988, as they head into the fall campaign -- 12 times the $14.8 million raised by challengers. House incumbents also had a 30 to 1 PAC contribution advantage over challengers.