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UEG Position on Current Scandal Involving Attorney General John Swallow Press Release

January 21, 2013

“While it remains to be determined whether Utah’s Attorney General, John Swallow, was part of a scheme to bribe a U.S. Senator, or was unethical in accepting money for consulting work performed outside his official duties, or inappropriately put Jeremy Johnson in touch with a lobbyist who could help push dismissal of a Federal Trade Commission investigation of Johnson, it is clear enough that huge amounts of money were funneled to former AG Shurtleff’s campaign accounts and then to Swallow’s, some of it through Jeremy Johnson. It is not idle speculation to wonder whether the desire to obtain large campaign contributions may lie behind the trouble that Mr. Swallow is in,” stated David Irvine, attorney for Utahns for Ethical Government

“From all appearances, it seems that the desire to attract campaign money, on the magnitude of the more than $200,000 that Jeremy Johnson and his associates contributed to former Attorney General Shurtleff, likely prompted Mr. Swallow, Shurtleff’s chief fund raiser at the time, to begin his unfortunate involvement with Mr. Johnson. During Swallow’s recent campaign, Shurtleff’s Utah’s Prosperity Foundation then contributed close to $300,000 to Swallow’s campaign. At the least, these events should lay to rest the notion that visions of big contributions do not have a corrupting influence on otherwise honest men and women,” stated Irvine. “Our top law enforcement officers should be above reproach but do not appear to be so.” Kim Burningham, UEG Chair, added that “UEG is interested in following the Alliance for Better Utah’s exploration of the usefulness of an investigation by the Utah State Bar.”

Burningham also observed that “legislators who opposed our initiative petition argued that there were no problems that would not be remedied by ‘transparency’ of contributions, but nothing has been done to make the donation process genuinely transparent either.” An example of the problem with this lack of transparency is the enormous $250,000 contribution to Swallow’s campaign from a Washington, D.C. PAC labeled Republican State Leadership Committee, whose donors remain totally anonymous. “Our laws are so lax that it’s impossible to determine where all of the money is coming from. No one knows who is footing the bill for many Utah politicians or what private agenda is driving these huge, untraceable contributions.  Limiting the size of campaign contributions would greatly alleviate this troublesome situation,” Irvine added.

Kim Burningham announced UEG’s position: “In response to the current scandal, Utahns for Ethical Government reiterates its position in favor of campaign contribution limits and for meaningful disclosure of contributors.  We call upon the 2013 Legislature to enact into law the campaign contribution limits recommended by Governor Huntsman’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy.  Those limitations ($10,000 for statewide races and $5,000 for legislative races) are eminently reasonable. The mandatory reporting of contributors to PACs, proposed by the Commission, should also be adopted, and extended to out-of-state PACs that seem able to flood Utah races with untraceable cash.”