Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Campaign Limits Are Mostly Moot

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Campaign Limits Are Mostly Moot

Article excerpt

Incumbents who get beefy contributions from political action committees might have to sign up for a low-PAC diet to fit the bill.

But the campaign finance bill that the House passed this week probably would do little to reduce spending in most congressional races in Missouri and Southern Illinois, reports show.

The legislation, approved Monday, would limit House candidates to $200,000 in contributions from PACs. And the bill sets voluntary spending caps for many House campaigns at $600,000, with a higher $800,000 cap for candidates who win their primaries with margins of 20 percent or less.

Supporters call the House bill a step forward. Critics call it a "horse without legs." But for most House incumbents in Missouri and Southern Illinois, it is no big deal.

A Post-Dispatch analysis of campaign spending found that if the $600,000 limit had been in effect last year, 20 of the 24 candidates for Congress last fall in Missouri and Southern Illinois would have kept safely within that limit. Only three candidates would have gone over the higher, $800,000 limit for closely contested races.

The four candidates who would have gone over the $600,000 voluntary spending limit for the 1991-92 election cycle are:

House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-St. Louis County, who led all House incumbents by spending $3.2 million in his re-election campaign. Gephardt defeated Republican Malcolm "Mack" Holecamp.

Rep. James M. Talent, R-Chesterfield, who spent $920,895 in his race to unseat Rep. Joan Kelly Horn, D-Ladue.

Horn, who spent $827,576 on her campaigns.

Rep. Richard J. Durbin, D-Springfield, Ill., who spent $666,000 in his s re-election campaign against Republican John Shimkus.

But the PAC limit would be a more effective weapon.

The Post-Dispatch analysis found that the House bill's $200,000 limit in PAC contributions would have caught half of the 24 bistate candidates for Congress last November - including all but three of the 12 incumbents.

Those who would have surpassed a $200,000 limit on PAC contributions in the 1991-92 election cycle include:

Gephardt, who led all House incumbents with $1. …

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