Another FEC email renews fight over legality of $1 million raised by Rep. Mia Love

Call it a battle of Federal Election Commission emails — over whether Rep. Mia Love truly has been cleared of any wrongdoing by collecting $1 million for a primary that she never faced.

On Tuesday, the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah released an email that it received from the FEC saying the agency is still investigating a complaint the group filed about the questionable fundraising.

It comes two weeks after Love released a different FEC email that she said backed her fundraising — and she then called for Democrat Ben McAdams to withdraw from their congressional race for having suggested otherwise.

In the newest email, the FEC tells the Alliance for a Better Utah that its complaint against Love “remains pending before the commission.”

It says the earlier email to Love’s campaign was “not in connection to your complaint,” and “you will be advised when the commission takes final action on your complaint.”

Alliance Executive Director Chase Thomas said that shows “Mia Love has not been cleared of wrongdoing. Her claims suggesting otherwise are misleading.”

The earlier email to Love’s campaign came after the FEC itself raised questions about the $1 million raised and told her to refund or reallocate the money to other elections.

But the Love campaign argued the FEC had earlier allowed Sen. Mike Lee to raise and keep money he raised for a potential primary up to the point of the state GOP convention, where he clinched the nomination. Lee had one Republican challenger who dropped out shortly before the convention.

Potentially allowing donors to give to three campaigns — a convention, primary and general — when only two are held might allow some to evade limits of $2,700 per election for individuals and $5,000 for political action committees.

Love eventually said the FEC had called her campaign and cleared her, and told reporters the agency would verify that if they also called. When The Salt Lake Tribune did call, the FEC would not comment on the matter — leading to an embarrassing story for Love.

But after pressure by Love, the FEC did email her, saying, “We concluded that substantive facts at issue were indistinguishable from those presented in the Friends of Mike Lee request.”

It added her campaign “could retain the primary election contributions it received prior to April 21, 2018, the date Ms. Love became the nominee at the party convention.” But Love had also collected $370,000 for the primary after the convention.

Love said that email cleared her. As extra precaution, her campaign has said it has reallocated or refunded all the $1 million as originally requested by the FEC — but McAdams said that was evidence that she had done something wrong.

In recent weeks as the alliance argued that Love still has not been cleared, she said that group’s board includes many McAdams donors and supporters. Dave Hansen, Love’s campaign manager, said Tuesday, “The alliance is hand in glove with the Ben McAdams campaign.” He reiterated that Love did nothing wrong.

The alliance on Tuesday also released a quote from Scott Thomas, a former FEC chairman, in support of its stance.

“In my opinion, the Love campaign cannot rely on the precedent of the Mike Lee campaign in 2016. Rep. Love simply did not have any primary opponent or potential primary opponent as of the filing deadline on March 15,” he said.

“No one else filed to run against her, and no one else could have tried to get on the primary ballot via petition signatures. She should not have treated any contributions coming in the door after that March 15 date as ‘primary’ contributions,” he said.