SALT LAKE CITY — The controversy surrounding money raised by Rep. Mia Love for a primary election that never happened was far from settled Tuesday, despite the Republican congresswoman's claim that the issue had been decided in her favor.
Love invited the news media to call the Federal Election Commission analyst who spoke with her campaign to confirm the statement she issued moments before debating Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams Monday night.
In her statement, Love said the FEC's position was that her campaign was legally allowed to collect contributions for the June primary until the state GOP convention in April where she was nominated as the GOP's 4th Congressional District candidate.
She also asked for an apology from McAdams for "peddling lies."
But Judith Ingram, a press officer for the FEC, told the Deseret News Tuesday that analysts are not authorized to talk to the press and it was just a "possibility" that someone from the agency spoke with Love's campaign.
"Phone conversations don't get put on the public record," Ingram said, unlike written correspondence with campaigns. "I don't know what the conversation was between them. I wouldn't be able to characterize it."
McAdams campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, said in a statement that Love has not been cleared by the FEC and that the investigation into her fundraising continues.
"Unfortunately, Rep. Love continues to have a difficult relationship with the truth. She lied to Utahns and to the press last night," Roberts said, adding, "We expect D.C. politicians to lie when they're embroiled in scandal."
The FEC press officer also said any such discussion would have no effect on the complaint filed against Love by the Alliance for a Better Utah. The progressive group held a news conference Tuesday to challenge Love's statement.
Chase Thomas, the alliance's executive director, said Love's "demand for an apology points to her belief that this conveniently timed phone call with a staffer at the FEC means this controversy is over, there could be nothing further from the truth."
Thomas said official FEC complaints can take years to resolve. The alliance contends that Love should return $1 million raised for the primary. About half of that amount came in after the mid-March filing deadline for candidates to enter the race.
Matt Sanderson, the Washington, D.C.-based attorney Love hired to help deal with the fundraising issue, said the FEC analyst, Michael Dobi, called the campaign Monday after consulting with the agency's office of general counsel.
"Their position is that the Love campaign is legally allowed to accept and retain primary election contributions before the convention," Sanderson said. "It doesn't change what the Love campaign was doing."
He said the FEC would ultimately put its position in writing, "but it will be on its own timeline." However, Sanderson said that doesn't change the substance of what he said the campaign was told.
Now, he said, the FEC will "go through the motions of reviewing" the complaint filed by the alliance, "handling that in due course. But I think that fundamentally decides how this will shake out."
In response to questions raised by the FEC, first reported by CNN last month, Love's campaign said it would redesignate some $370,000 in contributions made for a primary election after Love was nominated at the convention two months earlier.
The campaign also said about $10,000 would be refunded because a few donors giving after the convention ended up exceeding the maximum allowable contributions under federal law.
Love's latest financial disclosure filed with the FEC Monday shows $11,400 in refunds made in the third quarter of 2018. Her campaign said contributions have been amended on previous reports, but provided no details.24 comments on this story
The two-term congresswoman has raised more than $1.09 million and spent nearly $1.8 million between July 1 and Sept. 30, and reported more than $540,000 in cash on hand, according to the financial disclosure.
McAdams raised almost $870,000 and spent nearly $1.4 million during the same three months, his financial disclosure shows, with almost $725,000 in cash on hand available to spend as of Sept. 30.
The back and forth over Love's fundraising continues as the most competitive race in the state is increasingly seen as too close to call, based on polling and a new toss-up rating from the respected Cook Political Report.