SALT LAKE CITY –Over the course of two days last week, members of the Utah House Special Investigative Committee charged with looking into allegations against former Attorney General John Swallow were presented with investigators’ findings to date. The investigators and special counsel hired by the committee accused Swallow of knowingly deleting and fabricating documents, as well arranging for hidden donations.
In the wake of Swallow’s resignation, the special House committee that has been investigating the attorney general began to wind down and announced it would release its findings thus far to the public. Those findings were released on Thursday and Friday and left some committee members and state legislators frustrated and angered, according to The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News.
Accused data deletion, document fabrication and Jeremy Johnson
On Thursday, Steven Reich, the committee’s special counsel, said Swallow began to have data deleted from his computers following the April 2012 Krispy Kreme meeting with federally-indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson.
The meeting was secretly recorded by Johnson and later made a part of evidence in the many investigations Johnson’s accusations against Swallow triggered earlier this year.
“Based on the record available to us, our conclusion is that the Krispy Kreme meeting that Mr. Swallow had with Jeremy Johnson … set off a months-long spree where Mr. Swallow destroyed or lost records while creating new ones designed to support his version of events,” Reich said, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.
An IT staffer with the attorney general’s office said Swallow had asked him to wipe the hard drives on some computers, citing confidential information connected to Swallow’s role as a Mormon bishop at the time. The drives were wiped in the weeks following the Kripsy Kreme meeting.
Accusations of Swallow fabricating evidence stem from invoices and day planner entries he made in 2012 for work done in 2010 and 2011 for the late Richard Rawle, owner of Check City, in regard to a cement project in Nevada. Money paid to Swallow at this time is said to be connected to $250,000 Johnson and a business partner gave to Rawle for the purpose of staving off a federal investigation into Johnson’s company.
Swallow previously worked for Rawle as a lawyer for his company.
Payday loan donations and donor favors
On Friday, Chief Investigator Jim Mintz told the committee Swallow didn’t want the public to see where some of his political campaign donations came from. Mintz also said Swallow did favors for certain campaign donors.
Some of Swallow’s campaign financial support is said to have come from the payday lending industry, an industry that is seen as predatory by its detractors.
As reported by the Deseret News, Mintz cited a 2011 email between Swallow and a payday loan industry leader in which Swallow said he would be willing to defend them against federal regulations.
Mintz, Reich and other investigators laid out dealings Swallow had with the payday loan industry. They said Jason Powers, Swallow’s campaign consultant, took the donations and ran them through a network of political action committees and nonprofits as a cover.
A large amount of money is said to have come from payday loan industry, which included Softwise Inc., the parent company of Check City, Mintz said.
Money from the PACs overseen by Powers was used to run attack ads against Sean Reyes, Swallow’s opponent in the 2012 Republican nomination, as well as former Rep. Brad Daw, who sought to regulate the state’s payday loan industry.
Steve Ross, one of the committee’s special counsel, said Swallow used his connections with businessmen like Rawle and Johnson to his advantage. The benefits went both ways. Rawle is said to have donated heavily to Swallow’s campaign, and in return Swallow made sure Rawle’s name didn’t appear on campaign finance disclosures.
As for Johnson, Swallow was allowed to use the former millionaire’s houseboat at Lake Powell up to three times. He also used Johnson’s private plane, Mintz said. At the time, Johnson wanted Swallow to get a legal opinion on processing online poker receipts from the attorney general’s office.
While the attorney general’s office was a part of a suit against Bank of America involving foreclosures, Mintz said, Swallow also arranged for a settlement between the bank and campaign donors Tim and Jennifer Bell. The Bells had held a fundraiser for Swallow in the home that was the subject of the lawsuit.
While still the attorney general, Mark Shurtleff pulled Utah out of the lawsuit in December 2012, which affected 5,000 Utahns. The move surprised state attorneys working on the case at time, and when asked why it happened, Shurtleff said in an email: “This was becoming a very complicated issue for John given Bell hosted a fundraiser for him in the subject home.”
The investigation could continue
The Utah House’s special investigation has spent nearly $3 million investigating Swallow so far. It was thought the probe would wrap up with the release of the findings, but now some lawmakers aren’t so sure.
“I don’t think we’re done yet,” said House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. Dee, who serves on the special committee, said more investigation into Swallow’s financial dealings could help craft better campaign finance laws.
The Salt Tribune also reported that Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, also wants the investigation to continue, though he favored it being handed over to those who make investigations their regular business, such as the Salt Lake and Davis county attorneys. They are currently investigating Swallow and Shurtleff.
“If there are some things that need to be investigated, we should investigate. But we’ve got great people on the ground and this is their normal business,” Niederhauser said.
State Democrats not only want the House to continue the investigation, but to expand it to include Powers and his political consulting firm, Guidant Strategies.
John-Swallow-Jeremy-Johnson-Krispy-Kreme-Meeting – transcript
- Nine vie to be next state attorney general
- On the EDge: No tears for departing Swallow
- State won’t seek to invalidate Swallow’s election
- Swallow resigns, blames House committe
- Attorney general’s office, House committee make deal on records; new subpoenas issued
- Swallow denies deleting documents, fires back at committee
- Utah State Bar drops ethical misconduct complaint agaisnt Swallow
- Department of Justice declines to prosecute Swallow
- Snow resigns as chair of AG Investigation, replaced by Dunnigan; no Southern Utah representation
- The WAY I see it: Utah politics are the new ‘Chicago politics’
- Governor calls Special Legislative Session to equip investigation of AG Swallow
- Special House Committee opens investigation on Attorney General John Swallow
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