Former Attorney General John Swallow left office with $150K in campaign account
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — John Swallow resigned as attorney general this week after raising more than $150,000 in campaign funds during the year that could be spent in a variety of ways, including on legal bills.
Through Oct. 31, Swallow had collected $152,600 in donations, including three personal loans he made to the campaign totaling $50,000. Swallow also ended 2012 with $147,109 in the bank.
It's not yet known from Swallow's financial reports how much of that money he has spent this year. His 2013 report contains contributions only, which under state law must be reported within 30 days. Expenditure reports for the year aren't due to the state elections office until Jan. 10, 2014.
Even though he no longer holds office, the law still requires Swallow to file campaign finance reports until the account is zeroed out, said Mark Thomas, state elections director.
Swallow left office Monday, saying the investigations that plagued his 11 months in office were taking a financial toll on him and his family. He said he asked the Legislature for but was denied resources to defend himself and the attorney general's office from the Utah House special investigation. He estimated he had racked up about $300,000 in legal bills.
Those costs could mount if Swallow faces any criminal charges as a result of a separate ongoing joint Salt Lake County-Davis County investigation.
State law prohibits officeholders and candidates from spending campaign money for personal expenses such as a home mortgage or vacation. Legal services also is on the list of banned expenditures.
But Thomas said the elections office interprets that to mean paying an attorney in a personal matter not related to a campaign or officeholder.
So Swallow could conceivably use his campaign fund to pay his legal fees.
"Generally, I think the answer is yes," Thomas said. "You could make the argument, and I can see the argument, that this is related to him as an officeholder and to his campaign, and therefore would be able to use these funds."
The complaint the Alliance for a Better Utah filed against Swallow alleged that a $17,541 payment he made out of campaign funds to Clyde Snow & Sessions on Dec. 19, 2012, was for personal legal services. According the complaint, he hired the firm to work on a lawsuit against people he believed were defaming him.
The state elections office dismissed that charge, and it was not among the five violations of campaign disclosure law the office cited in a report released the day after Swallow announced his resignation last month.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox did not pursue a civil complaint against Swallow based on those findings because he said the penalty — removal from office — was satisfied when Swallow stepped down.
Cox made the report available to the Salt Lake and Davis county attorneys who say they will make it part of their continuing investigation.
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