Love refunding, re-designating campaign cash after warning

September 10, 2018
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FILE--In this Aug. 24, 2018, file photo, Utah Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love speaks during a campaign rally in Lehi, Utah. Love is refunding or re-designating up to $380,000 in contributions after the Federal Election Commission issued a warning that more than $1 million may have been improperly collected for a primary that never happened. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, file)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love’s campaign said Monday it will refund or re-designate up to $380,000 in contributions after the Federal Election Commission issued a warning about more than $1 million collected by her campaign for a primary that never happened.

The Love campaign defended the rest of the campaign cash, arguing that Utah’s unusual system for nominating candidates meant she still had to prepare for the possibility that another Republican could vie for the nomination at the last minute.

Her Democratic challenger Ben McAdams, though, slammed the fundraising as an example of “Washington D.C.-like corruption and lawlessness.”

Love and McAdams are locked in a tight race in a politically mixed district that Democrats are hoping to flip in the effort to take control of the U.S. House. She has held the seat since 2014.

In a letter to the FEC defending the bulk of the contributions, the Love campaign outlined the ways that candidates can get on the primary ballot in Utah: Through a vote of core party members at a convention or by collecting signatures from registered voters.

The campaign argued Love needed to prepare for a possible GOP challenger by collecting more than $700,000 in the months before the convention and signature-gathering deadline in April.

She spent more than $35,000 on gathering signatures to guarantee her spot on the ballot, said spokeswoman Sasha Clark, but ultimately did not submit those to the state. Love did not have a challenger at the GOP convention and easily took the required 60 percent of the vote to bypass a primary and appear on the ballot.

The Love campaign also cited GOP Sen. Mike Lee’s successful response to a similar warning sent in 2016, though his campaign spent more money on signature-gathering and he submitted those to the state to ensure his spot on the ballot.

The campaign conceded that $370,000 collected after she won at convention but before the primary in June should be re-designated for the general election. The campaign will send letters to the donors, who can request a refund.

They will also refund up to $10,000 in cash that would exceed campaign-contribution limits for the general election.