Something very curious happened after federal investigators announced they would not pursue charges against Attorney General John Swallow.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said the decision basically throws into question all the other investigations into Swallow’s behavior.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Niederhauser warn other Senators to be careful making public comments about the Swallow case because they might have to serve as a jury if the House investigation leads to impeachment?
Apparently he doesn’t have to follow his own instructions, since he basically tossed the other probes on the rubbish pile.
“Obviously it doesn’t settle the whole thing, but it settles a lot of it,” Niederhauser told the Deseret News. “Does it really warrant a lot of further investigation?”
Niederhauser’s comments serve to muddy the water surrounding John Swallow. If the headlines scream no charges from the feds, and high-profile politicians are questioning the validity of the other investigations, that certainly will have an effect on public opinion.
Why would President Niederhauser refuse to follow his own dictum and make such a public (and biased) comment about the ongoing investigations? Quite curious, indeed.
Maybe Niederhauser is looking forward to 2014. There’s an old sports axiom about not letting an undermatched opponent hang around too long because you open yourself up to crazy circumstances that could lead to a loss. The same thing applies here. The longer the John Swallow issue “hangs around” in the public consciousness, the more likely it could become a campaign issue to use against the GOP. Better to use the feds as a reason to cast doubt on any other inquiries.
No, John Swallow won’t lead to a Democratic wave resulting in a revolution at the statehouse. But, Swallow could damn other Republicans by association, which might help Utah’s minority party in some close elections.
Money is another issue. The House is going to spend $2-3 million in taxpayer money on their investigation, with the lead attorney billing at more than $700 per hour (nice gig if you can get it). With the federal probe off the table, Niederhauser’s questioning of that expenditure obfuscates the issue quite nicely. It’s easier to raise public ire about government spending, especially when, on the surface, it seems unnecessary.
But there’s one other reason that’s worth more than a cursory look.
Let’s take a moment to hearken back to 2006. That year Niederhauser was facing off against Democrat Trish Beck for the open seat in Senate District 9 after Al Mansell decided to step down.
Niederhauser triumphed in the general election, but it was close with a margin of a little over 1,000 votes. In his winning effort, Niederhauser employed Jason Powers as a campaign consultant, paying him more than $170,000 for his efforts.
That’s the same Jason Powers who ran John Swallow’s winning campaign for Attorney General in 2012.
That kind of close tie cannot be overlooked, especially when the leader of the Utah Senate decides to go against his own edict of not commenting on a number of ongoing investigations into John Swallow.
Did Jason Powers call up his colleague and ask him to throw cold water on the remaining inquests targeting Swallow? Probably not.
But, In Utah’s insular political system, where money connects everyone to everyone, you never know.
As Alice said during her trip to Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser.”