Bennett says Shurtleff may be violating FEC laws

Bennett says Shurtleff may be violating FEC laws

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah Sen. Bob Bennett said Wednesday that his chief Republican opponent may be violating federal election law, although he won't file a formal complaint.

Bennett told reporters that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff "appears" to be using state funds for a federal race.

"It appears that there has been comingling, and if there has been it's illegal," Bennett said. "The fundamental question is, he's announced that he's not running for re-election as attorney general, but he's still raising money for his race for attorney general. What is he going to do with that money?"

Shurtleff has created a state political action committee and maintains a personal campaign account. Shurtleff's PAC financial disclosure report was due Monday.

Unlike federal law, Utah places no limits on the amount of contributions an individual, political action committee or corporation can donate. Shurtleff's PAC for Utah's Future has raised more than $260,000 this year and spent about $254,000, including transferring $21,000 to his personal account.

Much of that money came as large donations from corporations, which are banned under federal law. In January, Shurtleff received $25,000 donations from Dreamworks Mortgage, MSL Holdings and IMI Media Inc., among others.

Shurtleff announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate in May, roughly one year from when Republican delegates will choose the party's nominee.

Shurtleff campaign spokesman Jason Powers said that some of the money Shurtleff has raised has gone to pay off past campaign debts and that Shurtleff is clearly within the law. His financial disclosure report indicates that more than $150,000 was dedicated to the Shurtleff 2008 campaign.

"Sen. Bennett's campaign is grasping at straws. They're struggling in the polls and they are trying to come up with any little thing they can to attack Mark Shurtleff," Powers said. "He doesn't know the law and he's trying to do a character assassination campaign and this is coming directly from the mouth of Sen. Bob Bennett and frankly I'm disappointed in him."

Some of Shurtleff's PAC expenses came after he had announced his candidacy for Senate. They included money for booth space at the Utah County Republican Party convention, air fare for a Young Republicans event, parade supplies, fundraising and event management expenses.

The expenses also show the PAC paid for food and snacks as a thank you to volunteers, although it does not say what volunteer work was done.

It is unclear what the money transferred to Shurtleff's state campaign account has been spent on. That won't be included until Shurtleff's personal campaign is filed with the lieutenant governor's office in January.

"The obvious question is, is he paying people with that money on the grounds, that gee, this is for my attorney general's race? Now you have gotten that money, will you go out and volunteer for my Senate race? If that's happening, and the reports indicate it might be, that's highly inappropriate and possibly illegal," Bennett said.

Utah places no restrictions on how candidates can spend their money. Many state office holders spread their money around to other political candidates in an effort to get their support going into the state convention.

In Utah's political system, 3,500 state delegates pick the party's nominee. Only candidates who fail to get 60 percent of the delegate vote are forced into a primary.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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