Rep. Mia Love’s campaign will refund less than half of what the Federal Election Commission says was more than a million dollars that was improperly raised for a primary election that didn’t happen.
FEC guidelines prohibit raising money for a primary election if there’s not going to be a primary. CNN reports Love’s campaign raised more than $1.1. million and designated that money for a primary election this year that never took place. Love’s campaign also raised an additional $372,000 for the primary even after she won the GOP nomination in April.
Experts tell CNN the improper fundraising is a serious violation of FEC rules.
“It’s a big deal, it is a big deal,” said Ann Ravel, who served as FEC Commissioner under President Barack Obama. “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’s campaign lawyers responded on Friday to the FEC, saying they would refund or redesignate contributions, but only those received after she was nominated at the convention on April 21. Love’s campaign will have to notify donors their money is being moved to be used in the general election and those donors will be able to request refunds. If primary contributions received exceeded the maximum $2,700 donation allowed for a general election, then that money would need to be refunded.
“It seems clear that any contribution designated for the primary election received after the convention would have to be refunded or redesignated,” said Brendan Fischer, the director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, an organization that supports campaign finance reform. “I think there is an argument that, Mia Love knew earlier than the convention that it would be an uncontested primary, but their letter suggests there may have been some ambiguity. So they might be able to get away with it but it’s certainly problematic because of this sort of quirk in Utah law that allows a candidate to raise money above and beyond the federal limits that would apply in elections in almost any other state.”
Love’s campaign says they will not be refunding the money they received before the election.
The Love campaign released the following statement on Monday morning.
“We strongly dispute the accusations made in the CNN story. Here are the facts:
CNN omitted that Friends of Mia Love did prepare for a primary campaign by paying over $35,000 to gather signatures to be on the primary ballot.
They also omitted the fact that the FEC simply requested a response for information as to why funds were attributed to the Convention and the Primary elections and did not and have not said Friends of Mia Love broke any laws.
Furthermore, CNN can in no way show that there is any deviation between 2016 Friends of Mike Lee campaign and the Friends of Mia Love 2018 campaign in which the FEC stated that because of the “unique facts” of Utah’s nominating process “the committee (Friends of Mike Lee) had no choice but to prepare for both the primary election and the party convention at the same time because of the short time frame between the party convention and the primary election.”
The “unique facts” of the 2016 matter involving Senator Lee have not changed. Utah’s unusual primary ballot access laws were upheld by the Tenth Circuit regardless of what the Democrat party and national liberal reporters want to present to help Democrats take the House.
National reporters also do not understand that until, it was not known with certainty whether any challenger had qualified for the primary election ballot. Similarly, it was not known with certainty until– the date of the state party convention – that there would be no primary election at all.
The bias numbers reported by CNN are grossly exaggerated. Friends of Mia Love will contributions which were previously undesignated and then assigned to the primary election to the general election for donations received after April 21, 2018 – the date of the state convention- and before June 26, 2018- the date of the primary election.
In total, Friends of Mia Love will about $370,000 and may refund under $10,000.”