Politics

Rep. Mia Love’s Campaign Gamed Primary Fundraising Laws, FEC Finds

GOP congresswoman’s campaign will return or reclassify less than a third of funds called into question

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, improperly raised more than $1 million for a primary race she knew she would not have, the FEC contends. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Mia Love’s re-election campaign copped to improperly raising money for a primary race that it knew was unlikely to take place, the campaign’s lawyers wrote in a letter to the Federal Election Commission.

The GOP congresswoman’s campaign was responding to a letter from the FEC in which the commission scrutinized $1,153,624 Love raised and classified as primary election funds for her 4th District seat in Utah.

Love will return less than a third of the money, $372,468, because the rest was raised before she officially secured her party's nomination at the state GOP convention in April, her lawyers wrote to the FEC, CNN reported.

In Utah, the individual fundraising limit for primary races exceeds the federal limit for general races and primary races in most other states, so candidates who have primaries can theoretically rake in fatter checks from individual contributors.

Experts have argued that Love knew she would not face a primary even before her nomination at the convention because she did not have any prospective challengers.

“It’s a big deal, it is a big deal,” Ann Ravel, an FEC commissioner under President Barack Obama, told CNN. “If you’re raising primary funds and you have no primary, on its face, it does seem to be inappropriate and it’s a lot of money.”

Love, her campaign, her campaign treasurer, and her campaign manager did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment on the matter.

In their response letter Friday to the FEC, Love’s lawyers said the campaign would refund or re-designate as general election donations the primary funds raised after the nominating convention.

If any of those donations exceeded the $2,700 federal limit for general elections, the campaign will need to refund the excess amount.

Love’s Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, trailed her by just 3 points in a recent UtahPolicy.com poll in what is expected to be one of the most competitive House races this fall.

President Donald Trump carried Utah’s 4th District over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 7 points, but he garnered just 39.1 percent of the vote there.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Lean Republican.

Watch: 12 Ratings Changes: Democrats Could Gain Up to 8 Governor Seats in 2018

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.