State lawmakers likely to discuss Attorney General John Swallow's troubles
The Legislature rushed on the last day of the 2013 session to amend a law that would have allowed the attorney general to investigate himself when accused of violating the state elections code. The change allows the lieutenant governor's office, which oversees Utah elections, to appoint a special counsel when the complaint involves the attorney general.
Lawmakers consider it a stopgap measure and will discuss whether the process for evaluating elections complaints needs to be revamped.
That new law came into play last week when Lt. Gov. Greg Bell announced he would appoint special counsel to investigate whether Swallow failed to disclose several personal business interests on his campaign finance reports.
The Alliance for a Better Utah filed a 12-count petition in March accusing Swallow of filing misleading or false campaign declaration and disclosure forms, conducting campaign activities from his state office during and after business hours, and putting campaign funds to personal use.
The elections office dismissed nine of the counts but determined three of them, including whether Swallow should have disclosed his involvement in a consulting firm and a family trust, warrant further investigation.
Sen. Todd Weiler's proposal to consider making attorney general an appointed rather than elected position is also on the committee agenda.
The Woods Cross Republican said he wants to remove fundraising and politicking from the state's top law enforcement job. Some of the allegations leveled at Swallow make it a good time to discuss the issue, Weiler said.
Jowers said Utah's campaign finance laws are not set up to allow the attorney general to be as effective as possible because they permit unlimited giving by corporations and other donors.
"They're probably going to be inspired to give for protection or worse," he said.
Utah could help itself by setting reasonable contribution limits, especially in the attorney general's office, or allowing the governor to appoint that position, Jowers said.
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