Bryan Schott’s Political BS: John Swallow and Lessons Not Learned

Now that John Swallow’s time as Utah Attorney General has been swept into the dustbin of history, what’s the lesson for us?


Is it a cautionary tale of greed and lust for power?

Is it a story of a tragic hero undone by his own hubris?

A comedy of errors?

I suspect John Swallow will become nothing more than a boogeyman for aspiring politicians; a fable about the dangers of overreaching and getting involved with the wrong people.

We don’t have John Swallow to kick around anymore, which is too bad because he made it super fun to kick him. The political theater was intoxicating while it lasted. The rumors and speculation were a rare bit of political mayhem in normally buttoned up Utah.

Usually when a scandal hits, it’s quickly shuffled under the rug and forgotten.

Remember when Sheldon Killpack was popped for DUI on the eve of a general session? He quickly resigned, avoiding the kind of spectacle we got with John Swallow.

Kevin Garn, too! An admission about a naked hot tub romp with a teenager on the final night of the Legislature should have been a political daisy cutter bomb. But, he resigned and it all went away.

Aha! Maybe that’s the lesson. Get out when you know you’re trapped. Swallow didn’t and was forced from office.

Here’s a secret the media doesn’t want you to know. If you don’t run, we won’t chase you. Killpack and Garn didn’t run – and that was pretty much the end of those stories. Swallow steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, even to the end, and it ended with, by his count, more than “50 front-page stories” about the scandal that led to his ouster.

Swallow’s defiance until his last day in office did nothing more than egg on the public and media.

Now the House committee investigating Swallow is trying to figure out how to wrap up their investigation? If the report they are required to produce were to produce a clear path forward on how to avoid this situation in the future, maybe the millions of dollars spent so far will be seen as a worthy expenditure.

Fat chance.

Utah lawmakers are notoriously allergic to anything that would curb their own behavior.

There’s an opportunity here for real reform. The first real opening in years for ethics or changes in campaign finance.

So, we’re left with a committee that has no purpose. If they continue to investigate in order to unearth more misdeeds by Swallow, they could generate more headlines, more outrage and more embarrassment for the former Attorney General – but they will be doing so simply to justify their own existence.

In the end, probably the only thing that will change because of this whole sordid affair is the person who occupies the seat Swallow gave up.

Yet, the tale of John Swallow will be told in Utah political circles – a story of money and hubris and woe. And on some dark nights, if you listen closely, you might still hear him in the distance mournfully wailing “I’m innocent! I’ve done nothing wrong.”

A sad ending indeed.