House report: John Swallow hung 'for sale' sign on door of attorney general's office

Published: Wednesday, March 12 2014 11:30 a.m. MDT

"Jason, the tea party groups are going to be very upset with the governor, and he has not taken a lead in some of the important issues. Is he going to be vulnerable? Who do you know that could take him? Could I if I raised ($500,000 to $750,000) for a convention or primary? Strategy would be to prep for (the attorney general) race and wait and see. Thoughts?" Swallow wrote.

The report also includes avenues the committee pursued regarding other questionable campaign donations and business relationships but wasn't able substantiate for various reasons, including Swallow's lack of cooperation.

The report recommends a list of ethics, campaign and election reforms, some of which the Legislature approved the past few weeks.

Snow noted that the U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Section declined to file charges against Swallow after its investigation and the state bar dismissed two complaints.

"For those investigations that were neutral, that is void of political motives and the hope for some political gain, John Swallow has come out just fine," he wrote. "It should have been left with and for those investigations that were impartial, and void of political implications."

While corruption is unacceptable from any elected official, it was even worse coming from the state's top law enforcement official, the report concluded.

"The corruption of the office specifically tasked with ensuring equal justice under law is particularly harmful because it undermines the public’s faith that justice in the state is being dispensed equally and without regard to economic, social or political status," the report states.

Also cited were the "profound" effects of Swallow's actions on those who worked under him at the attorney general's office, who shared their "deep anger and frustration" with committee investigators.

The committee concluded that Swallow "intentionally endeavored to obstruct inquiry into his conduct," based on his lack of cooperation, including what the report termed the "troubling combination of missing and fabricated documents."

The report was released on the House floor by members of the bipartisan committee who stood at the front of the chamber as Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, the chairman of the committee, described their efforts.

"I know there was no joy in this task," House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, told committee members after they presented their report. She said lawmakers had a responsiblity to investigate charges that at first "were murky at best."

Lockhart said, although the price tag was high, it was worth the effort.

"We cannot put a price on public trust. One does not cut corners when the very integrity of our justice system is at stake," she said.

The committee received a standing ovation from the House.

"It's actually a load, quite a load, lifted from me. I feel like I just turned in the term report and am done with the semester and can go on to other things," Dunnigan said of completing the eight-month task. "It's been not only time-consuming, but nerve-racking trying to get it right, trying to be careful to be fair and to be even-handed … so you try not to damage people."

Contributing: Richard Piatt

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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