Editor’s note: A more expansive version of this online article is available here. It includes a separate federal complaint against Rep. Mia Love’s campaign. Her campaign denies that complaint.
The chairman of the Salt Lake County Republican Party is alleging that Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams is receiving illegal campaign contributions in his congressional campaign against GOP Rep. Mia Love.
The McAdams campaign calls it “totally frivolous and nonsensical.”
Scott Miller, the party chairman, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission last week saying two big contributors to McAdams — John and Kristi Cumming — are evading donation limits by purporting to contribute in the names of their teenage children.
Also, Miller said McAdams appears to be improperly funding his signature “Ben Bus” through his old mayoral campaign fund, which has fewer restrictions and limits on donors than the federal rules governing his current congressional campaign.
Miller said he filed the complaint independently, and not in coordination with the Love campaign. “I’ve been keeping my eye on McAdams for several years now and noticed several irregularities,” he said.
The portion of his complaint about the Ben Bus — a decorated school bus used in parades and an ongoing tour through the district — said McAdams’ mayoral campaign bought and used it in previous years. Miller said disclosures do not show the congressional campaign bought it, or is renting it.
“By all outward appearances, the McAdams campaign has received one or more in-kind contributions in connection with the ‘Ben Bus’ and has failed to report those,” the complaint says.
“We are renting it from the mayoral campaign,” said Alyson Heyrend, spokeswoman for McAdams. She produced an internal campaign accounting document showing a $200 rent payment in June. Federal law does not require campaigns to itemize expenses of $200 or less, so Heyrend said the campaign did not list it on federal disclosure forms.
She said invoices for a wrap for the bus and for such things as gasoline and repairs came in just before the deadline for the last disclosure, and were paid afterward — and will appear in the disclosures for the next reporting period.
“I think that bus is resonating well with voters, and that’s what has them concerned,” Heyrend said about the GOP complaint.
In the other part of the complaint, Miller noted that the Cummings had given the maximum amount allowed to McAdams. John Cumming recently stepped down as CEO of Powdr Corp., but is still chairman of Snowbird and is chairman of American Investment Co.
The complaint alleges the Cummings evaded donation limits by giving another maximum $5,400 each in the name of their three teenage children. It is not illegal or rare for teenagers to donate to political campaigns.
“We acknowledge that it is possible that these contributions were lawfully made,” the complaint says, but calls them suspicious because two of the three had never made political donations before, and the other gave only small amounts.
The Salt Lake Tribune made a request through John Cumming’s office for comment, but it did not immediately reply. Miller said he had not talked to the Cumming family about the donations before including it in his complaint.
Heyrend, meanwhile, said, “It’s not unusual for campaigns to receive donations from teenagers. You should ask Mia Love if she’s ever received donations from a teenager.”