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Why the FEC ordered Utah GOP Rep. Burgess Owens to pay $4,000 fine

Rep. Burgess Owens smiles sitting at his desk at his West Jordan offices.
Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, poses for a photograph following an interview at his West Jordan offices on Monday, April 12, 2021. The Federal Election Commission has fined Owens nearly $4,000 for failing to timely report $34,000 in contributions to his 2020 campaign.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Federal Election Commission has fined Utah Rep. Burgess Owens nearly $4,000 for failing to timely report $34,000 in contributions to his 2020 campaign.

Owens, a freshman Republican, failed to file 48-hour notices for 20 donations last October, ranging from $1,000 to $2,800, according to the FEC. The FEC requires 48-hour notice of “last minute” contributions of more than $1,000 with less than 20 days before an election.

The Owens campaign said in a statement Tuesday that it experienced “challenges” with its hired campaign finance compliance team during the 2020 election.

“When these issues came to light last November, we promptly ended that relationship. The campaign then hired a respected compliance firm in December of 2020 and conducted a full audit. We are now 100% compliant with the FEC and are confident we will not have any issues moving forward,” according to the statement.

Owens attracted FEC scrutiny as early as last August for accepting two campaign donations totaling $8,400, which exceeded legal limits. The federal limit for campaign contributions is $2,800 per election for individual donors.

In October 2020, a New York Times analysis reported that Owens refunded the excess donation, but found other cases in which contributions totaling $135,500 exceeded legal limits.

“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 has processes in place to handle this situation,” Owens campaign spokesman Jesse Ranney said in a statement last fall.

A former NFL player and frequent Fox News guest, Owen defeated Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams in a hotly contested race.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant said if Owens can’t be truthful when running his own campaign, he can’t be expected to work effectively for the interests of Utahns.

“Following his telltale pattern of recklessness when it comes to campaign finance, Burgess Owens has again shown his belief that he doesn’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else,” Merchant said in a statement. “While everyday Utahns work hard to put food on the table for their families, Rep. Owens skirts the law and expects to face no consequences for his actions.”