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Love, McAdams refute allegations in dueling FEC complaints

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, left, is the Democratic candidate for Utah's 4th Congressional District. Republican Mia Love, right, will face him in November's election.
Campaign staffers for both Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (left) and Rep. Mia Love (right), R-Utah, rejected allegations that have been leveled at each of the District 4 congressional candidates in separate Federal Election Commission complaints.
Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A representative of Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' congressional campaign calls a recently filed Federal Elections Commission complaint against the District 4 Democratic congressional candidate "frivolous" and "absolutely without merit."

As part of their response, McAdams campaign staffers also shared copies of complaints, one to the FEC and another to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, that include allegations of wrongdoing by Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, in her campaign activities and reporting.

An Aug. 8 filing by Salt Lake County Republican Party Chairman Scott Miller alleges that McAdams failed to appropriately include expenses related to a renovated school bus used by the campaign in an FEC filing and, in a second item, implies that three donations made by teenagers were improper "straw donor" transactions.

In the complaint, Miller writes that while "it is possible that these contributions were lawfully made" by the children of John and Kristi Cumming, who themselves are McAdams contributors, he suspects malfeasance.

"Given the timing, the maximum contributions involved, the fact that the parents are contributors, and the fact that two of the children have never given before, and the third has contributed only small amounts in the past, it is more likely that these contributions were made in the name of another and are properly attributed to one or both of the children’s parents," Miller wrote in the complaint.

John Cumming, founder and former CEO of Powdr Corp. and current chairman of American Investment Co., did not respond to messages left at his business by the Deseret News requesting comment.

McAdams campaign spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend told the Desert News that the bus, which McAdams has previously used in his campaigns for Salt Lake County mayor, is being rented by the federal campaign. And that the $200 per month rental fee falls under the minimum dollar value that the FEC requires campaigns to stipulate as an expenditure line item. She also noted that some other bus-related expenses, including maintenance and a graphic vehicle wrap, were billed for in July and will appear on the next FEC-required quarterly filing.

"In our view, this is a completely frivolous complaint," Heyrend said. "It has absolutely no merit."

The two complaints against Love's campaign and the Utah Republican Party, both submitted on Feb. 13 of this year, were filed by American Democracy Legal Fund, a progressive advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Both complaints revolve around allegations that in 2016 the Utah Republican Party paid for $120,000 worth of political mailings on Love's behalf, which Love did not report as a contribution, and the action was out of compliance under FEC rules.

"At over $120,000, this coordinated expenditure well exceeded all applicable limits," the complaint reads. "In fact, when the Utah Republican Party paid for over $120,000 worth of political mail on behalf of Rep. Love, it appears to have made, and the Love campaign appears to have accepted, an excessive contribution under FEC's rules for coordinated party communications and in-kind contributions."

The complaint also indicates that even if the expenditure by the Utah GOP was a loan, it exceeded federal caps.

"Even if the Love campaign intended to ultimately repay the party for the mailings, the party's expenditures would nonetheless constitute an excessive contribution to the Love campaign," the complaint says.

In a statement to the Deseret News, Love campaign spokeswoman Sasha Clark refuted the claims.

"There was never a loan from the Utah Republican Party," Clark said. "The FEC doesn’t comment on investigations. As such, we do not know the status of those complaints filed by a Washington, D.C.-based, Democratic lobbyist group."

Love and McAdams are squared-off in a tight race for the District 4 congressional seat that Love has occupied since 2015. A recent poll showed Love with a slim lead over McAdams but one that fell within the survey's margin of error.