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New Attorney General John Swallow calls for investigation of claims against him

Others also calling for probe of allegations made by ex-multimillionaire

Published: Monday, Jan. 14 2013 3:25 p.m. MST

Utah Attorney General John Swallow talks with supporter Verdi Schill at the Hilton in Salt Lake City on Nov. 6, 2012. Swallow is in the spotlight as more call for an investigation into allegations of impropriety.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General John Swallow called for an investigation Monday into allegations that he brokered a deal to stifle a federal probe into a St. George businessman.

Swallow, a Republican, asked the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah to look into Jeremy Johnson's claim that Swallow helped arrange a $600,000 deal to enlist Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to quash a Federal Trade Commission investigation of his Internet marketing company in 2010.

"I deny I have ever participated in a scheme to bribe a member of Congress," Swallow wrote to U.S. Attorney for Utah David Barlow. "I expect no special treatment. I do not hold myself or anyone else above the law."

Barlow replied to Swallow later Monday, assuring him in a letter that the U.S. Attorney's Office and Department of Justice place a high priority on alleged federal crimes. All such matters, he wrote, are handled by the FBI and federal prosecutors.

"We will carefully review any information you or others provide and take any necessary and appropriate action," Barlow wrote.

In his first albeit brief interview since the story broke late Friday night, Swallow said Monday, "I categorically deny these allegations are true, and it's personal. I can't believe someone could make up a lie like that about someone who's just coming into office."

Swallow said maybe Johnson is upset because he wasn't willing to broker a meeting for him with the U.S. Attorney's Office several months ago.

Federal prosecutors indicted Johnson in June 2011 for mail fraud in connection with his once-thriving enterprise, iWorks. The FTC alleges he scammed consumers out of millions of dollars by billing them for products and services they never ordered.

Swallow said he never talked to federal prosecutors or pressured them to back off Johnson's criminal case, nor did he talk to anyone at the FTC about the civil complaint.

"The answer is categorically no. Nor would I," Swallow said.

Swallow's letter to the U.S. attorney comes after the Utah Democratic Party and others, including a prominent Republican, called for an investigation into his activities involving Johnson.

Meantime, Reid's office issued a statement rebutting Johnson's allegations.

"Sen. Reid has no knowledge or involvement regarding Mr. Johnson's case," the statement said. "These unsubstantiated allegations implying Sen. Reid's involvement are nothing more than innuendo and simply not true."

Swallow said the only thing he did was put Johnson in touch with a friend and former client, Richard M. Rawle, who had experience with federal lobbyists and might be able to help him with federal regulators. Rawle also had contributed to Reid's 2010 re-election campaign.

"It didn't seem at the time to me that it was that big of a deal for me to go ahead and say to him, 'I'll introduce you to someone I know who who knows people who might be able to help you for a fee,'" Swallow said, adding he knew and believed in Johnson and Rawle.

Johnson supports his allegations with emails, financial records and a transcript of a secretly recorded April 2012 conversation with Swallow that appear to indicate Swallow did more than introduce him to Rawle.

The state Democratic Party sent a formal request Monday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for a special prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations against Swallow. The party also started an online petition seeking an investigation.

"This is not a partisan issue. Everyone in the state wants to know if the attorney general or their high government officials are crooks. It's that simple," said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis, who also serves as a state senator.

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