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Congressmen Find Money Where Mouths Are

May 23, 1986|PAUL HOUSTON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — California House members accepted more than half a million dollars in honorariums last year, mostly for making speeches to special-interest groups that had business before their committees, according to financial disclosure statements filed Thursday with the House.

The new reports on personal holdings and outside earnings show that 12 Californians kept at least $20,000 each in 1985 honorarium payments. The ceiling on such receipts is $22,530--a ceiling the House briefly raised by $7,510 last month but then reinstated when a furor erupted.

The runaway honorarium leader among the 45 California House members was Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Merced), who received $60,100 but had to donate $37,633 to charity because of the limit on personal use.

Coelho, chairman of both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Agriculture subcommittee on livestock, dairy and poultry, spoke to many business and farm groups, including the Associated Milk Producers and Mobil Oil Corp. Coelho was a key author of the 1985 farm bill's dairy section. And he has aggressively wooed corporate political action committees to contribute to Democratic candidates.

Other leading recipients of honorariums were Reps. Robert T. Matsui (D-Sacramento), $38,250 ($15,858 of it given to charity); Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), $42,500 ($19,290 to charity), and Fortney H. (Pete) Stark (D-Oakland), $47,800 ($26,600 to charity).

Matsui and Stark, members of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, were invited to speak before a wide array of economic interests concerned about sweeping tax-reform proposals last year. Waxman is an influential subcommittee chairman on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Critics protest that the honorarium system is "one more way for special-interest groups to gain special access to members of Congress," said Randy Huwa, vice president of Common Cause, the self-styled citizens lobby. "It is a particular problem because an honorarium goes right into a member's pocket."

Many legislators argue that their congressional salaries, currently $75,100, are inadequate and that it is less politically risky to accept honorariums than to raise their official pay. They also maintain that honorarium appearances enhance communication with outside groups rather than create conflicts of interest.

The financial disclosure statements, which all high government officials must file once a year, also showed that California's House delegation apparently has seven millionaires, five of them Democrats.

Although precise figures are impossible to come by because of vague reporting requirements, Stark is thought to be the wealthiest. A former banker who sold his bank holdings when he went onto the Banking Committee, Stark is543712609shopping centers and warehouses.

Likely the top runners-up are Reps. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Ventura), who has large citrus groves, and Ed Zschau (R-Los Altos), who made his fortune in computer disks. Also apparently mill1768910433Monica), Don Edwards (D-San Jose), Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles) and Tom Lantos (D-Woodside).

Three congressmen listed no holdings worth more than $1,000: Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach) and Ronald V. Dellums (D-Oakland). However, members did not have to list any residences or blind trusts that they may own.

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