Last week, the Salt Lake Tribune published the transcripts of a secretly recorded, 2009 conversation between then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Darl McBride, a local businessman. During this conversation, Shurtleff offered McBride $2 million if McBride would stop his Internet campaign to find one of Shurtleff's buddies who had an outstanding arrest warrant and whom McBride said owed him money (You can't make this stuff up!).
In a shocking and sinister move, Shurtleff then laid out an extortion scheme to get the $2 million from Marc Sessions Jensen. He explained that Jensen, who the AG's office had accused of improperly marketing securities, had recently entered into a "plea in abeyance program" where Jensen would have to pay millions in restitution to avoid jail time. Shurtleff told McBride (and McBride's digital recorder) that Jensen would have "every motivation in the world" to come up with the $2 million because Shurtleff was "going to shut down my team on him." Shurtleff told McBride he would fly to Southern California to see Jensen and ask for the money.
Shurtleff made the trip and took John Swallow, his fundraiser and protégé, with him. They stayed at Jensen's Newport Beach villa, and, receipts show, lived it up on Jensen's dime, charging thousands of dollars in golf, clothing, massages and food to Jensen's account. It was then, Jensen says, that Shurtleff asked him for $2 million. Jensen, who was unable to come up with the money and is now in prison, says that Shurtleff and Swallow extorted him "from the very beginning."
I believe McBride's recording, now in the hands of the FBI, will, if it stands up to scrutiny, result in charges against Shurtleff. Gratefully, he is no longer in a position of trust that can be abused to harm the people of Utah.
John Swallow still is in a position of trust, but should not be. While serving as chief deputy attorney general to Shurtleff, this is a man who:
Facilitated a "lobbying" scheme to influence a federal investigation, received over $20,000 from the proceeds of the scheme, and then tried to cover up his involvement.
Accepted improper gifts from an individual being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and then tried to cover up any "paper trails" linking him to the gifts.
Proposed to an individual under investigation by the FTC that they should both purchase pay-as-you-go cell phones so they could hide their conversations from federal investigators.
Raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from shady businessmen who were being investigated by the Utah Department of Consumer Protection by pitching a scheme to move the department into the AG's office after his election.
Failed to disclose to voters the side-income he was earning from "consulting" engagements while working in the AG's office.
These occurrences are corroborated in Swallow's own voice through recorded conversations and through documents now part of the public record.
In February, on these pages, I called on Swallow to resign because he has violated the public trust. His spokesman said this week that Swallow has broken no laws and that "resignation is off table." He has even told some lawmakers he cannot be impeached because any wrongdoing occurred before he was elected as attorney general.
Under Utah law, "malfeasance while in office" is sufficient for impeachment. According to Webster's Dictionary malfeasance is defined as "wrongdoing or misconduct by a public official." There is sufficient evidence that Swallow has acted inappropriately (maybe even illegally) while executing his duties as chief deputy attorney general. This is sufficient provocation for state legislators to initiate impeachment proceedings. They should do so immediately.
Dan Liljenquist is a former state senator and U.S. Senate candidate.
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