With the 2014 midterm elections in full swing, voters in Utah’s 4th congressional district are receiving the usual barrage of mailers and fundraising packets. But over the past week the Mia Love for Congress campaign may be missing their mark, as a fundraising packet is ending up in the hands of some unlikely donors.
Several well known Democrats, including Utah Democratic Party employees, lawmakers, and candidates have been posting photos on Facebook of Love fundraising letters and bumper stickers which were sent to their homes asking for campaign donations to the Love campaign. Because of this, questions have arisen as to whether the Love campaign made a big mistake and used campaign funds to pay for a mailer to a Democratic list.
Dave Hansen, Love’s Campaign Manager, views the mailing as an effective form of outreach. “This was a ‘prospect’ mailing,” Hansen told Utah Political Capitol, “Republicans…get on the mailing lists of the Democratic Party and candidates so that we know what they are doing, Democrat activists get on the mailing lists of Republican party candidates.”
But the mailer seemed to have hit an unusually high number of insider Democrats. Many of those contacted by UPC don’t even live inside the 4th congressional district. In one case, the Love campaign mailed the heavy (and presumably expensive) packet to the former communications director for the Utah State Democratic Party who now lives in Boston – with a recent Massachusetts address, and says that even when he lived in Utah, he never lived in that district’s boundaries.
When asked if the mailer had been a misfire or poor targeting, Hansen, the longtime Republican campaigner, said that the mailer has paid for itself, and denies that a mistake was made in using it.
Emily Bingham, Campaign Coordinator for the Doug Owens campaign, hit back against the Love mailer, characterizing it as an example of poor financial management by the Love campaign. It’s a problem, she says, that the Owens campaign doesn’t have. “Democrats are very careful about how we spend campaign-finance money and every dollar will be targeted to a voter—a voter who is already voting our way or who can be persuaded to vote our way,” says Bingham.
Many of the Democrats who received the mailer have been poking fun at the letters enclosed bumper stickers.
Local leftie radio program The Left Show has been encouraging its listeners to send them photos of the what they’re doing with the Love bumper stickers. Representative Patrice Arent (Democrat, Millcreek) posted a photo with Love’s name crossed out and Owens’ added in. Others have altered the bumper stickers to read “Love=Love,” a reference to the fight for LGBTQ equality. One person even made a fake university degree with the bumper sticker at the top, referencing a flyer Love put out during her 2012 campaign in which she pledged to eliminate Stafford student loans and Pell grants.
But Hansen is taking it all in stride. “I kind of like the publicity [Democrats] are giving the mailing. We are getting people calling the office and asking, ‘how can I get a bumper sticker?'” He added, “We want to give everyone, especially those in [Congressional District 4] an opportunity to support Mia. We don’t discriminate against anyone. Whether they want to support her is their decision.”
Questioning the Claims
Within the packet itself, simply dated “Wednesday,” Love claims that her Democratic opponent, Doug Owens, “will receive millions of dollars in insider DC support and special interest independent expenditures to bombard [her] campaign with every negative attack possible.”
Love claims that during his speech at the Democrats’ convention back in April, Owens “criticized my adherence to my Christian faith.” In actuality, Owens belongs to the same Mormon faith as Love, and the speech in question was to the LDS Democrats caucus of the Democratic Party, where he said “I am a Democrat because I am LDS. I think the values line up very, very closely … I don’t think Mia Love represents LDS values, frankly.”
To date, claims that outsider money flowing into the race from national Democrats don’t hold water. A recent Washington Post article announced that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DNCC) will not be making initial advertising buys for Owens in the Utah media market. That article was touted by Love in a Facebook post and email to supporters, where she said the “campaign is in the strongest position it has ever been in.”
Bingham says she’s not worried about the lack of national money. “[the Owens campaign] is working very hard to raise a significant amount of cash so that he can show viability.”
Matt Lyon, Executive Director of the Utah Democratic Party, had similar feelings, noting that Utah Democrats have been in talks with the DCCC and are confident they will choose to pay for a second round after the national party sees the forthcoming financial disclosures.
The next reporting period will be July 15th.
Hansen acknowledged that, though the Love/Owens race is not currently on the list of races the DCCC is interested in, that could always change.
“In any race you are always concerned about the opposition party coming in to the race and putting money into it.” Hansen said.
In Love’s letter, she warns supporters that her account is “well under budget” after her easy win at the Republican convention. This, despite the fact that Love has $500,000 more in cash on hand compared to Owens. Furthermore, as of the last reporting period in April, Love has raised a total of $2.1 million, to Owens $132,000.