Investigation Says Swallow Hung a 'For Sale' Sign on AG's Office

Written by Bob Bernick on . Posted in Today At Utah Policy

Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow hung a “for sale” sign up on his door, and helped his friends and others who donated tens of thousands of dollars to his political campaign, the newly-released, $4 million report by a House special investigation committee concludes.

 

Here is the link for the huge Utah House report on its investigation of Swallow.

In giving the House the report, from the well of the House and with his committee members around him, chairman Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said that the committee tried to be fair and open-minded.

Swallow resigned last December, in mid-work for the committee, said Dunnigan.

“We basically tried to tie up loose ends” and wrote the final report – which took weeks to put together in part because of Swallow’s efforts to stall the committee’s efforts.

Ultimately, the House spent around $4 million, said House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, in accepting the report.

But it had to be done, she added, saying that it is the responsibility of the “people’s House” to ensure that public integrity of its elected officials is ensured.

In the report’s introduction, committee members wrote: “The committee’s investigation revealed that, during his tenure in the office, Swallow compromised the principles and integrity of the office to benefit himself and his political supporters.

“In so doing, Swallow breached the public’s trust and demeaned the offices he held. Indeed, the committee concludes that Swallow hung a veritable “for sale” sign on the office door that invited moneyed interests to seek special treatment and favors.”

Swallow and his former boss, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, as well as others, are still being investigated for possible criminal wrongdoing by Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

Meanwhile, former associates of both Swallow and Shurtleff have been federally indicted and a friend and so-called “fixer” of Shurtleff also faces criminal charges.

The sense of corruption in the AG’s office has had a terrible toll on some staffers, the report says.

“Not infrequently, these individuals became highly emotional when describing what they had seen.

These loyal public servants had known for years that what was happening in the office was wrong, yet they felt powerless to stop the wrongdoing because it came directly from the top.”

When Swallow resigned, Sean Reyes – the fellow Republican Swallow and his campaign smeared with possibly-illegally-obtained funds – was appointed by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert to fill out the remaining year as AG.

Reyes has reassigned some top AG officials, while others have left voluntarily. Reyes promises to reform Utah’s highest law enforcement agency – its so-called “top cop” – and bring integrity back to the 300-plus staff office.

The report says that Swallow fabricated documents and destroyed or “lost” others in a clear attempt to obstruct the House’s investigation.

Accordingly, the report says, local law enforcement agencies will get copies of the report, as well as the Utah State Bar and other licensing groups.

At one point – during the now infamous audiotaped meeting with a person involved in a really strange conspiracy operation, inside of a Krispy Kreme shop in the spring of 2012 – Swallow wondered out loud if he could lose his Bar license.

Two previous complaints against Swallow with the Utah State Bar have already been dismissed.

However, with the evidence now released by the House committee of obstruction of justice, Swallow’s ability to practice law again, either in Utah or elsewhere, could well be in jeopardy.

There were three specific instances – among the many alleged against Swallow – which the committee concentrated on:

-- First, Swallow provided his friend and political ally Jeremy Johnson (now under federal indictment) unique access to the office and a favorable legal opinion regarding the permissibility of processing money derived from online poker gambling (Johnson’s business), all while the wealthy Johnson shared the benefits of his luxurious lifestyle with Swallow.

-- Second, Swallow promised his friend and patron Richard Rawle that, as attorney general, he would be an ally to the payday lending industry, all while Rawle (owner of Check City) helped Swallow solicit hidden campaign contributions from that very industry—contributions that, in part, funded nearly untraceable negative attacks of political opponents of Swallow and the payday industry.

-- Finally, Swallow compromised the office’s position in a pending wrongful mortgage foreclosure lawsuit when he, after the plaintiffs in the lawsuit hosted a fundraiser for him, helped make the lawsuit disappear in an effort to keep his embarrassing ethical conflict from coming to light.

In so doing, Swallow, with the assistance of his predecessor as attorney general, Shurtleff, sold out the interests of thousands of Utah homeowners who would have benefitted if the office had continued to pursue the case.

Swallow, as Shurtleff’s hand-picked successor and as Shurtleff’s chief deputy, wanted to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from Utah’s payday loan industry for his 2014 AG race.

But Swallow didn’t want to have to report that money, since he knew it’s source could harm his campaign.

So, the report says, “To fully obscure the link required more sophisticated machinery, so Swallow, with the assistance of his campaign consultant Jason Powers, built that machinery.

“The men established a string of not-for-profit and tax-exempt entities that shielded from public view the source of contributions that ultimately were used for Swallow’s benefit.

“Swallow was able to direct money from politically inconvenient donors to these entities because, at that time, Utah law did not require those entities to report from whom they received money.”

When $452,000 from the Powers’ groups started up “hit ads” against Reyes, Swallow’s GOP primary opponent, and against former state Rep. Brad Daw, who had sponsored two bills the payday loan industry didn’t like, both Swallow and Powers denied any connection to the negative attacks – lying to the Utah public, the report says.

In another instance, the AG’s office was involved in trying to stop a subsidy of Bank of America from foreclosing on hundreds of Utah homeowners.

One of those was Tim and Jennifer Bell.

The Bells held a campaign fundraiser for Swallow, where he learned that they were part of the foreclosure lawsuit.

Instead of refusing the money made at the fundraiser and recuse himself from any discussions in the AG’s office about the foreclosure suit, Swallow and Shurtleff conspired to keep the unethical connection secret.

In fact, the report says, Shurtleff went so far as to withdraw the state’s lawsuit against Bank of America after the Bell’s got a favorable decision from the bank and kept their home – thus denying hundreds of other Utahns whose homes were being foreclosed upon the same favorable outcome.

Finally, as reported earlier, in the spring of 2012, just in the middle of his race for attorney general, Swallow had a meeting with Johnson (taped at the Krispy Kreme shop), where Johnson basically threatened to go public with various dealings he had had with Swallow.

Swallow was “scared to death” about that happening, as it would basically end his campaign.

Monies were filtered and rerouted and Swallow went on a spree of trying to erase or “lose” all kinds of electronic data that could implicate him in the Johnson operation, the report says.

Later, Swallow also post-dated receipts, notes and other documents trying to show that he wasn’t associated with Johnson and/or how Swallow was being paid by the late Rawle for “consulting” work.

In one case, Swallow claimed he had worked more than 20 hours in one day in “consulting” for Rawle.

About the missing data – which really only could have been deleted manually by Swallow – the report says:

“Just as Swallow deleted a large volume of email from his office account, he has admitted in sworn testimony that he deleted email from his personal email account, and office personnel additionally discovered, while responding to a committee subpoena, that Swallow’s electronic office calendars for the years 2010 and 2011 are missing entries.

“Moreover, among a long list of Swallow’s digital devices—a home computer, several office computers, a personal cellular phone, two office cell phones, an office iPad, a campaign iPad, and an external hard drive—the committee is not aware of a single device whose data survived without incident the months that followed the Krispy Kreme meeting.”

In short, the chief law enforcement officer of the state undertook a systematic and continual effort of obstruction of justice, uncovered by the House committee’s investigation.

It may well be those actions by Swallow that lead to charges filed by the Salt Lake County and Davis County prosecutors’ offices, House officials said Wednesday.