Bob Bernick’s Notebook: The Not-So-Shocking John Swallow Revelations

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that former AG John Swallow lied to the House special investigation committee, stalled its investigators after promising to cooperate, back-dated documents and destroyed emails and/or just “lost” various cell phones, laptops and tablets.


Gee, here I was thinking Swallow was an upstanding guy who made a few bad associations and raised money from a few unsavory folks.

In fact, as previously reported in UtahPolicy, Swallow and his campaign manager, Jason Powers, set up non-profit groups that were later used to funnel so-called “dark money” into his 2012 AG race, and, coincidently, to unseat former state Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem.

(That’s not to say that Swallow wanted to defeat Daw, but the same tactics were used against Daw and Swallow’s GOP primary opponent, Sean Reyes, House special counselor Steve Reich told his committee Thursday.)

Reich will continue testifying publicly before his committee Friday.

Reich said that because of the famous Krispy Kream meeting between Swallow and Jeremy Johnson, now under federal indictment, recorded by Johnson, Swallow started to both delete electronic material – evidence the House committee later sought – and create back-dated documents to explain how he was being paid as a consultant by his late friend and employer, Richard Rawle.

I won’t get into all Reich’s Thursday testimony. You can listen to the whole four-and-a-half hour committee hearing here.

But Reich paints a damning picture of Swallow’s actions, including Swallow buying a pre-paid cell phone, in cash, from his AG campaign account that he used after learning that feds may be looking at some of his actions.

Such pre-paid phone calls can’t be traced, are often used by crooks, and it looks really fishy that Swallow sent a campaign worker out to buy one for him and order they worker to use cash so the phone’s purchase couldn’t be tracked in campaign financial reports.

Is any of this criminal?

The criminal investigations by the Salt Lake County and Davis County attorneys go forward.

Reich, in a carefully worded response to a question posed by House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake, said there may well be obstruction of justice violations by Swallow, even illegal destruction of state records (emails), but those decisions are up to prosecutors, not he nor the committee.

You don’t go to jail for lying to the media. If one did, well, some of government’s work would come from behind bars.

Reich pointed out several areas where Swallow is quoted or recorded making misstatements to reporters.

Still, if one believes Reich, Swallow’s actions were both unethical and, at least in part, really stupidly done.

Kind of like former President Richard Nixon deleting 18-minutes from a Watergate tape made in the Oval Office.

You also can’t seem to get away from the mix of church and state in Utah – Swallow told AG IT employees that he needed to “wipe” his office computers because it contained some local LDS Church stuff related to his ward assignment as bishop, and he needed to get that off.

But wipe all the drives, instead of just wiping the LDS Church portion? Asked Reich. That makes no sense.

Finally, Reich comments – and some of the committee questions asked of him – clearly led to making the case that the House’s investigation was stalled, elongated and made more costly by Swallow’s actions.

In short, don’t blame Utah House members for spending at least $2.3 million of taxpayers’ money on the Swallow investigation – now ending because of Swallow’s resignation.

It would have cost a lot less if only Swallow had been truthful from the outset and not lied and stymied committee investigators, Reich said.

“That really offends me,” said Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, that Swallow caused so much cost to taxpayers through his lies.

After Friday’s wrap-up, the committee will issue a written report, probably in several weeks.

The Swallow fallout may lead to some campaign finance reforms in the 2014 Legislature.

Maybe lawmakers will try to shine more light on “dark money” operations – which usually result in anonymous, negative attacks on political candidates.

But for now, Swallow’s legacy will be one of lying, covering up, and using about every excuse in the book – including his position as a LDS bishop – in trying to avoid taking responsibility for his own actions.

It’s all a sordid affair, not seen in Utah before.

Let’s hope 2014 brings some cleaner politics.