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Letters to the Editor. Reining in the PACs

Congratulations to Julia Malone on her insightful article about campaign finance (``PACs hold `mortgage' on Congress,'' Nov. 12). My own campaign for the Senate cost $5.3 million, my opponent spent more. Both of us had little choice under the current system. The article mentioned Sen. David Boren's proposal, which would put ceilings ranging from $150,000 to $750,000 on PAC contributions to Senate and House campaigns. The impulse is commendable, though that bill is more a bandage than a remedy.

Sen. Charles McC. Mathias and I have introduced a plan that would go farther to lessen the ``psychological mortgage'' that big private contributors have on candidates. Our bill provides for full financing of Senate campaigns in general elections from the voluntary taxpayer checkoff fund -- the same fund and the same system now used for presidential campaigns that you may contribute to by checking a box on the IRS tax form. Candidates accepting these funds would have to agree not to accept private contri butions.

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Senate candidates could spend less time and energy raising money and more time getting their messages across. I suspect also that some PACs are secretly sick of the present system and would welcome fundamental reform. The real winners would be the public since public policy would be less influenced by those who can afford to spend heavily on campaigns. Sen. Paul Simon Washington

Sen. Phil Gramm's statement, ``When the American people are forced to choose between Amtrak . . . and defense, they're going to choose defense'' is similar to statements I've received from my senators [`` `No stopping' deficit bill in Congress,'' Oct. 31]. This is remarkable because the military budget is in the billions, while Amtrak's budget is in the millions. There should be some index for Congress and the public to understand large budget dollars in simple terms. I suggest the media translate each program's cost to 100 million taxpayers, similar to the EPA's miles per gallon guide for new cars. Thus, Amtrak's '86 budget would cost each of 100 million taxpayers $6.16. The '86 military budget of $293 billion would cost each of 100 million taxpayers $2,930, compared with $1,600 per taxpayer five years ago. Robert Metcalf Sacramento,Calif.

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