BYU poll: Majority favor impeachment, resignation for Attorney General John Swallow

Published: Monday, June 17 2013 5:45 p.m. MDT

Embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow speaks with reporters in Salt Lake City on May 14, 2013. A new BYU poll released Monday indicates an "extremely low" approval rating of just 12 percent for Swallow. About 78 percent of Utahns polled think he should resign while 72 percent believe the Utah House of Representatives should begin formal impeachment proceedings against him.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PROVO — A new poll shows that support for embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow is "extremely low," hovering at only around 12 percent with strong majorities calling for his resignation or ouster.

A total of 78 percent of Utahns polled think Swallow should resign while 72 percent believe the Utah House of Representatives should begin formal impeachment proceedings against him, according to the Utah voter poll conducted by Brigham Young University.

Quin Monson, director of the BYU Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said he has never seen such a low favorability rating in his time watching Utah politics. The poll, he said, provided needed insight into the opinions of those who elected Swallow.

"That's been the missing piece of the conversation so far, and I think, in particular, as we head into a discussion with the Legislature about what they might do moving forward, it's particularly helpful," he said.

Swallow Monday responded to the poll results in similar fashion to the allegations that have dogged his tenure as attorney general:

"From the beginning I have asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate so the public can know the facts rather than the implausible and impossible allegations leveled against me by people indicted or convicted of fraud," he said in a written statement.

"The poll is not surprising but it would be disappointing if legislators act based on baseless allegations instead of waiting for the truth."

Those respondents calling for Swallow's impeachment transcend party lines with 88 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independent voters and 65 percent of Republican voters supporting impeachment.

Of the 28 percent or so who do not favor impeachment, only 4 percent said their opinion stemmed from not believing the accusations leveled against Swallow. Sixty-five percent of those who did not want impeachment indicated they want to wait until the criminal investigations are complete.

The study was conducted between June 10-16 and included a total of 947 respondents, with 839 completing the full survey. The margin of error for the study was around 3.4 percent.

Monson said previous polls had touched on questions about Swallow but had never focused fully on the attorney general.

"We thought, given the talk of impeachment and resignation, that it was time to fully probe the issue and see where the public is on this," he said.

Swallow, a first-term Republican, is under investigation on several fronts in connection with a number of allegations, including that he helped broker a deal for indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, who was attempting to derail a federal investigation into his company.

Johnson, who is facing numerous charges of fraud in federal court, claimed in January that Swallow helped arrange a $600,000 deal to enlist Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to quash a Federal Trade Commission investigation of Johnson's Internet marketing company in 2010. Swallow denies having taken part in any scheme and has welcomed investigations into the claims.

Reid has denied any knowledge of Johnson's case.

Federal investigators are looking into the alleged deal with Johnson, as well as allegations that Swallow promised special consideration to several businessmen in exchange for contributions to former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's re-election campaign. Imprisoned businessman Marc Sessions Jenson also filed court documents over the weekend saying Swallow and Shurtleff extorted him for personal and political gain.

Jenson is seeking to disqualify the entire Utah Attorney General's Office from prosecuting him on felony charges connected to the failed $3.5 billion Mount Holly resort project because of a "pattern of wrongdoing" and alleged extortion, court documents state.

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