In 2018, then Republican Rep. Mia Love was accused of illegally raising more than $1 million in the tight race against Democrat Ben McAdams to represent Utah’s 4th Congressional District, which she would go on to lose by fewer than 700 votes.
That led to an investigation by the Federal Election Commission, which wrapped up last month.
FEC rules allow a candidate to raise and spend money for a primary election and the general election cycle, but those two elections are treated as separate events. If there’s no primary, that money must be redesigned to a future election cycle or refunded to the donor within 60 days. In Utah, candidates can raise money for all three unique nominating systems: convention, primary and general.
Love was unchallenged for the GOP nomination in 2018, but continued to raise money for a primary election and convention challenge that never happened. Even after she secured the GOP nomination, her campaign team continued to raise funds for the non-existent primary, pulling in more than $370,000. Ultimately, Love’s campaign reallocated more than $1.1 million raised for the primary election to the general election cycle and refunded the money raised after the convention.
That prompted the FEC to send Love’s campaign a letter saying she appeared to have violated campaign finance laws and asked for more information. At the heart of the matter was whether Love had gamed the system to raise money for an election she knew was not coming and if she had missed the 60-day deadline to reallocate those funds.
Love stoked further controversy in October of that year by telling reporters her campaign had received a phone call from the FEC clearing her of any wrongdoing. The FEC declined to comment about the conversation.
Last month, the FEC dismissed the complaint against Love’s campaign.
The FEC’s Office of General Counsel advocated for an investigation into Love’s campaign, but all six of the commissioners disagreed, saying it would be pointless to pursue an investigation as Love’s political ambitions have ended, and the campaign organization had been mothballed.
Three commissioners advocated for a hefty fine, but the other three felt that punishment would be out of proportion. The deadlock means the matter is closed.
“Rather than authorize an invasive investigation into a defunct and desultory entity’s records and ‘internal communication,’ or propose a significant civil fine against a committee with no ability to pay, we declined to proceed,” the ruling read.
Love and former President Donald Trump feuded following her election loss, as he blamed the defeat on her refusal to align herself more closely with him.
She is currently a commentator for CNN and recently filled in as a guest host on the popular daytime chat show “The View.”