Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
FILE - U.S. Rep. Mia Love and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams shake hands as they take part in a debate at the Gail Miller Conference Center at Salt Lake Community College on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Sandy, Utah, as the two battle for Utah's 4th Congressional District. Love's campaign released a copy of an email Thursday from the Federal Election Commission stating contributions received for a primary election before the GOP's April convention could be kept.

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said a Federal Election Commission email released Thursday clears up issues about her fundraising and called for her Democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, to get out of the race.

"This is exactly what we needed," Love told the Deseret News. She said the email "clearly states that we have absolutely done nothing that would be illegal and this is absolutely a devastating day for the McAdams campaign."

Love said McAdams shouldn't stay in the race, citing what she called "a coordinated effort" between his campaign and the Alliance for a Better Utah, the progressive group that filed an FEC complaint against her about the $1 million she raised for a primary race she didn't have.

McAdams said that while he knows people in the alliance, he insists there was no coordination. He said Love is simply attempting to deflect from the issues he believes she still faces with the FEC, including the complaint that is still pending.

"This is what a Washington politician does, try to distract from her own misconduct and try to shift it on to somebody else," McAdams said. "This is a question about not whether she broke the law, but by how much."

He said the FEC email, which states Love's campaign "is not required to take any corrective action regarding the primary election contributions at issue," does not exonerate her and is "deceptive" because it refers to only part of her fundraising.

The latest tussle between the candidates for the 4th Congressional District seat continues to escalate the bitterness in the state's most competitive election, viewed by key national observers as a toss-up.

Love's campaign released copies of emails from the FEC responding to questions from her attorney, including an email saying contributions received for a primary election before the GOP's April convention could be kept.

That email comes after the FEC declined to comment Tuesday on the issue after Love directed reporters to contact the agency to confirm details of a call with an analyst and members of her campaign.

Love had said in a statement distributed just before Monday's debate with McAdams that her campaign had been informed by an unnamed analyst they were "legally allowed" to raise the money.

The email concluded the campaign "could retain the primary election contributions it received prior to April 21, 2018, the date Ms. Love became the nominee at the party convention."

Written by Danita Aberico, a compliance advice attorney in the FEC's general counsel's policy division, the email said the analyst, Mike Dobi, "properly advised" the campaign no further action was required on those contributions.

The decision reflects the contention of the Love campaign that she should be able to keep money raised for a June primary election through the convention, even though no Republicans ran against her.

The issue surfaced when a letter from the FEC questioning her fundraising for the primary became public last month. Love's campaign said then that $370,000 collected after the convention would be redesignated for the general election and just over $10,000 would be refunded to donors.

The email released Thursday does not refer to the redesignations or refunds. A spokeswoman for Love's campaign, Sasha Clark, said earlier this week that previous FEC filings were amended to reflect the changes, but she did not provide details.

The Washington, D.C.-based lawyer hired by Love's campaign to deal with the FEC issue, Matt Sanderson, said in a news release it would be "unprecedented" for the agency to pursue the alliance's complaint.

He called the complaint "a zombie filing. It technically exists, but it's dead."

Sanderson told the Deseret News the email response came at "light speed by FEC standards. If this were truly a thorny issue, then they would take until 2020 to handle it, even at the staff level."

Love said she does not intend to file a complaint against McAdams over what she told KSL Newsradio is "a coordinated effort to try to destroy my reputation," between his campaign and the alliance.

She said the group is "supposed to be a watch dog but it turns out they're really a pit bull for the liberal Democrats," after KSL Newsradio reported ties between McAdams and the Alliance for a Better Utah, including contributions from board president Josh Kanter.

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"We categorically deny there was any coordination with the McAdams campaign," said Chase Thompson, the alliance's executive director, despite what he called "wild accusations and conspiracy theories being thrown around" about the group.

"Every single one of our board members have political involvement. That's why they're board members on a board that deals with policy and politics," Thompson said, adding they don't get involved in day-to-day operations.

"We actually informed them (board members) after we had already submitted the complaint," he said. "It was my call. I'm the one who put this together. Josh had no decision whatsoever in what we did with that complaint."