By Elizabeth Robinson
The House Special Investigations committee released its yearlong report Wednesday, March 12, detailing the events that led to former Utah Attorney General John Swallow’s resignation.
In publishing the final report, the House investigations committee concluded “that Mr. Swallow hung a veritable ‘for sale’ sign on the Office door that invited moneyed interests to seek special treatment and favors.”
The committee cited eight crimes they believe Swallow committed, including: Bribery, Official Misconduct, Theft of Services, Obstruction of Justice, Evidence Tampering, Witness Tampering, a Pattern of unlawful activity and Violations of Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act.
The investigation and its accompanying documents have been turned over to law enforcement, but as of the end of the 2014 Legislative session, March 13, no charges have yet been filed against Swallow relating to his tenure as attorney general.
The report and accompanying chronology further detailed what it alleges was Swallow’s improper relationship with lobbyists representing gambling and payday loan industry — showing evidences of improper campaign contributions, and activism of Swallow on behalf of the industries.
According to the report, Swallow improperly solicited campaign contributions from multiple out-of-state pay day loan groups on trips across the country. Richard Rawle, a longtime friend of Swallow and a lobbyist for the pay day loan industry, paid for Swallow’s trips by under the table donations on unreported debit cards, in violation of campaign finance laws which require all donations be reported by public officials within 30 days, the report said.
During this time, Swallow’s campaign also looked into the voting records of former Rep. Brad Daw (R-Orem) who sponsored legislation which would have regulated the pay day loan industry; this record request was later linked to attacks against Rep. Daw by outside groups.
Multiple political action committees were also formed to collect donations on behalf of Swallow to circumvent the disclosure requirements, as political action committees are not subject to the same reporting rules as are elected officials, according to state campaign finance laws.
These same political action committees were later linked to money laundering in connection with the pay day loan industry processing poker money. According to the report, “the processing of poker proceeds fell within the definition of money laundering under state law.”
During his tenure as Attorney General, Swallow also pursued side business ventures, such as engaging in discussions with LeadGenix, an herbal supplement company, the report said.
The most discussed side involvement in the report was that of Swallow’s intervention in a lawsuit filed by the Bell family against Bank of America over the foreclosure of the Bell’s home. The family donated multiple times to the Swallow campaign – after the state intervened in the case, in favor of the Bell’s point of view.
Starting in June 2012, the report alleges that after meeting with those involved with organizing his political action committees, Swallow requested a staff member buy him an untraceable cellphone, and began engaging in evidence and witness tampering.
Multiple insistences of lost emails, damaged hard drives, missing records, and refusal to co-operate with the House investigation are outlined in the report.
Swallow’s attorney Rodney G. Snow said in a letter accompanying the report, “To suggest there was some nefarious plot [by Swallow] a foot to destroy potential evidence for a committee many months before it was established is simply untrue and patently unfair.”
There was no direct action taken against Swallow during the 2014 Legislative season however, HB394, entitled campaign finance reform, passed. The bill would tighten the rules on what elected officials are required to disclose about their donors.