Rep. Mia Love’s re-election campaign will hold onto much of the nearly $1.2 million her opponent says she raised improperly, shifting it to the general election from a primary that never happened, her campaign said Tuesday.
The move came as Ben McAdams, Love’s opponent in the hotly contested midterm election, demanded she forfeit all the money, which has been the subject of a Federal Elections Commission inquiry.
“We followed the rules, and we followed the law, and they raised money illegally,” said Alyson Heyrend, McAdams’s communications director.
Dave Hanson, Love’s communications director, brushed aside such assertions as “crap.”
“We don’t take our direction from the McAdams campaign,” he said.
At issue is $1,153,624 Love raised and classified as primary election funds for her 4th District seat in Utah.
Utah and Connecticut are the only states that allow candidates to exceed federal general election fundraising limits from individual contributors for primary campaigns.
The Federal Election Commission sent the Love campaign a letter in August alerting it to a missed 60-day deadline after the primary to refund the money or else earmark it for another election.
Love’s campaign responded Friday that it had been operating under the assumption she could have a primary challenger until April 21, the day she secured her party’s nomination at the GOP convention.
Campaign officials are asking anyone who contributed to the $372,468 Love raised after that date to allow them to use the money for the November midterms, Hansen said, adding that the campaign would wait for further instruction from the Federal Election Commission. He described the process as routine and said assertions to the contrary were “nothing more than political posturing.”
“We knew in the beginning that, because of the high profile of the race that this campaign would be under the microscope,” he said. “We made sure we followed the rules.”
McAdam’s campaign, however, said Love knew she would not have a primary opponent as early as March 15, the state deadline for declaring her candidacy. But Love continued to raise money for the primary because she wanted to “game the system” and get an unfair advantage over McAdams, who did not raise money for that race.
“Her only option is to refund the money,” Heyrend said.
If the FEC accepts the Love campaign’s explanation, it could create a precedent for candidates in Utah and Connecticut to bypass fundraising limits for individual contributors, said Brendan Fischer, an attorney at the non-partisan nonprofit Campaign Legal Center.
“This appears to be an example of a candidate adopting an aggressive view of the law in order to raise as much money as possible and expecting that the FEC will let them get away with it,” he said.
Love’s campaign released an internal poll Friday showing she had 51 percent of the vote to 42 percent for McAdams.
A UtahPolicy.com poll showed a slimmer margin, with McAdams trailing by just 3 points. The race is expected to be one of the most competitive House races this fall.
President Donald Trump carried Utah’s 4th District by 7 points in 2016, but did so with just 39 percent of the vote.