Bryan Schott’s Political BS: I’ve Got a Crazy Feeling…

Things are starting to swing John Swallow’s way. After a summer of negative headlines, Swallow may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have the sneaky feeling Attorney General Swallow will survive this mess and stay in office until 2016.

The most recent bit of good news for Utah’s embattled Attorney General is the State Bar’s decision they won’t pursue charges against him on an ethical complaint. This comes after the feds declined to charge Swallow in the Jeremy Johnson case.

Call me crazy, but I just get the feeling that Swallow is going to skate away from these problems. He may be bloodied and bruised, and his political career will be a wreck. But he probably won’t be forced from office.

There are a couple of investigations that still pose a threat for Swallow, but with the Utah Bar backing away from the fight, Swallow can finally see a path out. It's faint, but it's definitely there

I expect the outrage from his critics to build slowly, but surely.

We’re already seeing the first indications of that. The Alliance for a Better Utah, which has been a consistent champion of Utah’s political minority, has called into question the Bar Association’s own ethics since they declined to go after Swallow on his. ABU brought the original complaint to the Bar, and now they’re castigating that organization for not agreeing with them.

“Today’s announcement by the Utah Bar Association may not be an indictment of the Attorney General, but it is certainly an indictment of the Bar itself. This is an unfortunate day for Utah,” said executive director Maryann Martindale in a press release.

That’s mild compared to the kind of fury Swallow’s opponents will unleash if he walks.

Swallow and his supporters are already starting to go on offense.

Look at what has happened since the feds declined to intervene:

  • Swallow’s supporters in the Legislature have turned up the volume about the need for an expensive investigation by the House.

  • The partisan motivations of the two county district attorneys investigating Swallow are being questioned.

  • Swallow penned an op-ed about Utah being better at managing public lands than the federal government.

Frankly, I’m surprised Swallow’s allies haven’t been more vocal. The more noise they make, the more news coverage they get – and the more opportunities they have to repeat the “no federal charges” mantra.

Swallow’s critics point to the fact that there are still a some investigations proceeding. True. But, the longer they go without generating news – the further from the minds of the public they drift.

There’s already evidence of that. A recent BYU poll says 71% of Utahns think Swallow should resign. But, that’s down from 78% in June. Such is the bane of the “low information voter.” Expect those numbers to steadily decline as the news cycles remain bereft of damning allegations against Swallow. Out of sight, out of mind.

The battle now is process vs. public relations. Swallow benefits from good news, while the remaining investigations chug along away from the spotlight. House investigators have to keep quiet. County investigators have to keep quiet. Anything they turn up, unless it’s Earth-shattering news, will likely come out in drips and drabs.

Of the remaining probes, the real danger for Swallow is the investigation into alleged campaign finance shenanigans during his run for Attorney General. If the law firm tasked with looking into those charges decides there’s merit, they could go to a judge who could then invalidate the 2012 election – meaning Swallow would be gone.

That would be an astonishing outcome – one Swallow would likely take all the way to the Utah Supreme Court.

Then there’s the House probe. Already we’ve seen a few Republicans in the Legislature call into question the cost surrounding the House query. That committee can’t even make any recommendations on what to do with Swallow – just present their findings to the rest of the House. That’s an incredibly milquetoast mission.

Even if the committee uncovers evidence that is extremely bad for Swallow, Utah lawmakers will be caught between a rock and a hard place. If they bring impeachment proceedings against Swallow, they better proceed with extreme caution. Failing to convict Swallow or remove him from office after a high-profile impeachment would be disastrous. Given the doubts already expressed by a number of lawmakers, it’s a dicey proposition at best.

So, if John Swallow persists…if he survives this, we will likely have to deal with him until 2016.

That’s two years for him to redeem himself (doubtful) or have Utah’s GOP replace him on the ballot. The latter possibility seems more likely.

The Swallow saga, which started with a bang seems destined to end with a whimper.