Washington — Those heavy-caliber "Abscam" charges so far are proving to be a popgun campaign issue for legislators implicated in the FBI "sting" operation. Of the five congressmen who have faced the voters since being implicated (three of them have been indicted), only one has run into any political trouble.
He is Rep. John Jenrette Jr. (D) of South Carolina, who was forced into a runoff election for renomination last week. But he remains favored to win, having outpolled his runoff foe, State Rep. Hicks Harwell, in the first round by a 3-to-2 margin.
But "Abscam," code name for a Federal Bureau of Investigation scheme in which fictitious Arab sheikhs offered bribes for congressional favors, is only partly responsible for Representative Jenrette's political problems.
During his three terms in Congress, he has been the target of three federal investigations and one court case on allegations involving campaign finances, business practices, grand jury tampering, and drug smuggling. He also underwent treatment this spring in a Navy-run alcoholism treatment program here.
Mr. Jenrette was indicted June 13 on "Abscam" charges of bribery and conspiracy.
Two other congressmen brushed by "Abscam" easily beat back crowded fields of challengers in their primary elections earlier this spring.
Rep. Michael O. Myers (D) of Pennsylvania topped 14 contenders, despite barely campaigning. Fellow Philadelphia Democratic Congressman Raymond Lederer ran up a lead of better than 2-to-1 over the strongest of his six competitors.
Opponents in both races made strenuous but futile attempts to capitalize on the "Abscam" issue, including hard-hitting radio and television commercials. Both incumbents have since become the other two lawmakers to be indicted in the case.
Two more congressmen implicated in "Abscam" by law enforcement officials have won renomination without opposition: Rep. John Murtha (D) of Pennsylvania and Rep. Frank Thompson Jr. (D) of New Jersey.
Three more lawmakers, who also have been implicated, have yet to get a verdict from the voters.
Two of them, Rep. John Murphy (D) of New York and Rep. Richard Kelly (R) of Florida, face challenges from within their parties in primaries Sept. 9.
The only senator whose name has surfaced in the case, Harrison Williams Jr. (D) of New Jersey, does not come up for re-election until 1982.