WASHINGTON -- Mia Love, the Republican front-runner for one of Utah's seats in Congress, earned a minor reputation for disorganization two years ago when she lost to incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson (D). Now, a series of emails obtained by HuffPost suggests that may have spilled into violating rules against mixing campaign and official business.
A string of messages -- provided to HuffPost by Democrats who got them through open-records requests -- show that Love, who was then mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, would occasionally receive campaign queries on her mayoral account and deal with them directly, rather than switching to a campaign or personal account.
Although apparently infrequent compared with the amount of political communication that goes on in a campaign, Love's discussions of politics on her city account potentially violate Utah laws that say "a municipal officer or employee may not use municipal equipment while engaged in political activity." It could also violate the federal Hatch Act, which restricts mixing politics and official resources, if Love's city got any federal funding.
Some of the emails are as simple as Love forwarding queries she got from potential volunteers, donors and well-wishers to campaign staffers to deal with. In one case, she discusses how she could help Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Florida. In another, she forwards the letter from a lawyer for the Democrats asking the city for the email records.
One string of emails setting up an interview with The Hill newspaper last August starts off in normal scheduling territory, but Love makes it political by suggesting she's using the outlet to set up a fundraising opportunity. "I think this was one that would help us tap into the black community nationally," Love writes at one point in agreeing to an interview with Niall Stanage. "It's all positive and hopefully we could raise some funds from it."
She also sent official business messages for her campaign's use, such as a press release touting her budgeting and an endorsement of a mayoral candidate that had to be tweaked to better tout Love's accomplishments.
Perhaps the most problematic discussion is a back-and-forth over an interview with conservative radio host Tammy Bruce that Love hoped to use for fundraising. "Would you mind asking her if she could help us raise funds during the show," Love asked a campaign staffer last June. "Let her know that [Sean] Hannity and [Glenn] Beck will be doing something similar."
One of Love's advisers, David Hansen, who is included in many of the emails, downplayed the significance, saying all they really showed was how careful Love has been to keep politics and her city work separate.
"Mayor Love was extremely meticulous in dealing with city vs. political business," Hansen said. "After reviewing literally thousands of documents, this is all the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] could come up with?"
He noted that Love appears to be responding to something in all the cases, not initiating discussions.
"Most of them were scheduling issues where there may have been a question of whether or not the issue was city business or campaign business," Hansen said. "They were forwarded on by her to get that resolved. As you know, most political discussions run to long email threads. There was none of that in these documents. If the threads were longer, they were carried out on her personal email."
"This is nothing more than the DCCC attempting to justify their expense of requesting all the documents they requested and trying to drum up an issue when there is no issue there," Hansen added. "It's nothing more than a negative, dirty tricks campaign against her. Hopefully you won't want to be a part of their effort.
"Plain and simple, there is nothing there," he said.
Indeed, such issues don't often lead to official punishments, but in Love's case they could feed the perceptions of some that disarray cost her the chance to become the first African-American Mormon woman in Congress in 2012, when she lost to Matheson in Utah by fewer than 800 votes with Mormon Romney at the top of the GOP ticket.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.