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2 Utah senators named in campaign finance complaint, but is there evidence of wrongdoing?

KUTV Salt Lake City logo KUTV Salt Lake City 7/27/2021 Daniel Woodruff, KUTV
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Alliance for a Better Utah is taking aim at two Utah state senators and a large national political action group.

The complaint, which was filed by Alliance for a Better Utah and the Center for Media and Democracy, centers on a type of campaign software provided to member legislators by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The complaint alleges Utah Senate President Stuart Adams (R-Layton) and Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (R-South Jordan) should have reported the software as an in-kind contribution but didn’t.

a man standing in front of a building © Provided by KUTV Salt Lake City
Caption: KUTV: Daniel Woodruff reports{{ }}

But the two senators deny even using it. Even the complaint acknowledges those filing it “do not possess sufficient information to determine if [Adams and Fillmore] used it for their campaigns.”

"The complaint is a copy-paste and is being used in various states across the country,” said Utah Senate chief of staff Mark Thomas in a statement to 2News. 

Alliance for Better Utah and CMD allege Pres. Adams and Sen. Fillmore failed to report in-kind contributions during the 2020 election cycle. Their complaint provided no evidence to support this allegation. This is an effort by Alliance for [a] Better Utah to spread false information. Pres. Adams wasn't even on ballot during the 2020 election cycle. Furthermore, Pres. Adams and Sen. Fillmore have not used the software in any capacity.”

The complaint was filed the week of ALEC’s annual meeting, which is taking place in Salt Lake City this year. Thomas said, “Alliance for Better Utah and CMD clearly wanted to release this false information the week of the conference in hopes reporters in Utah wouldn't do their due diligence."

In an interview with 2News Monday afternoon, Chase Thomas, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah, acknowledged he doesn’t know if the software is being used in Utah, only that it is “being offered” to ALEC members. Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy filed an IRS whistleblower complaint alleging that ALEC "is illegally providing its state legislative members with sophisticated voter management and campaign software deeply tied to the Republican Party and worth more than $6 million per election cycle."

Thomas noted ALEC’s membership rolls are private. Fillmore is ALEC’s state chair in Utah, while Adams is the national chairman. He said his group wants the lieutenant governor’s office to investigate whether anything improper is going on with the software, “to determine how it’s being used and whether it should be reported as in-kind contributions for elections for these legislative members in states.”

Asked if it would have been better to wait until there was evidence that Adams or Fillmore were actually using the software, Thomas said, “Well, I mean, that’s the thing that we can’t do ourselves. We don’t have investigatory powers that are given to government offices.”

Justin Lee, director of elections in the Utah lieutenant governor’s office, confirmed his office has received the complaint.

“As far as the process goes, we will review the complaint and then determine what the next steps are,” Lee told 2News in an email. “There is no specific time frame to look into this type of complaint.”

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