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GOP candidate Burgess Owens refunds some excess donations, campaign says

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Republican Burgess Owens

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Burgess Owens, the Republican running against Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, has refunded some of what’s estimated to be at least $135,500 in campaign contributions collected beyond what federal limits allow, his campaign said Tuesday.

“With over 50,000 donors and with many campaign donations made electronically, excess contributions can occur without the campaign’s knowledge. That is why the FEC (Federal Election Commission) has processes in place to handle this situation,” Owens campaign spokesman Jesse Ranney said in a statement.

Asked about whether money was being returned to donors, Ranney told the Deseret News, “By FEC processes I mean refunding any excess contributions.” He said “the majority of the excess contributions have been attributed accordingly. The rest of the money has been returned. This isn’t unusual and is common practice.”

Ranney did not specify how much money was refunded and how much was able to be attributed to the primary election. He also did not dispute the calculation by the New York Times that the campaign accepted at least $135,500 in campaign contributions over the FEC limits.

The campaign has not reported making any refunds in its most recent financial disclosures. The federal limit for campaign contributions is $2,800 per election for individual donors and up to $5,000 for political action committees and parties. Amounts in excess must be refunded if it cannot be attributed to a previous election.

McAdams’ campaign manager, Andrew Roberts said in a statement: “Federal election law is crystal clear and we follow it. We record every contribution, issue all our refunds and file our 48-hour reports. The Owens campaign is behaving as if the laws don’t apply to them.”

Roberts said “from six bankruptcies and unpaid taxes to misusing charitable funds and now campaign finance violations, Burgess Owens has displayed a pattern of financial mismanagement. It’s clear he has taken illegal donations that he cannot spend. He should come clean and refund all the money he is holding illegally.”

Owens, a former NFL player, author and frequent Fox News guest, had reported bringing in some $2.5 million in the three months after he won Utah’s June 30 GOP primary election, more than the $1.4 million raised by McAdams over the same quarter.

In the most recent filings for Oct. 1-15, Owens reported another $456,000 in contributions and just over $328,000 in cash on hand. McAdams reported raising an additional $314,000, with nearly $411,000 available to spend.

The race to represent Utah’s 4th District, which includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties, is one of most competitive in the country. McAdams won the seat two years ago, beating two-term GOP Rep. Mia Love by less than 700 votes.

Combined, the candidates have raised more than $9 million for the race, but that doesn’t count the more than $10.7 million spent by outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Much of that money has been used by Republican and Democratic groups for largely negative TV commercials.