Utah prosecutors forward allegations against Sens. Mike Lee, Harry Reid to feds

Published: Friday, March 14 2014 1:25 p.m. MDT

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 6, 2014.

Cliff Owen, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — County prosecutors investigating former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff say they have come across allegations of wrongdoing by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings say they're not actively investigating the two senators but have passed along information to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Also, Lee's name came up in the Utah House Special Investigative Committee's report released this week in connection with Swallow's effort to raise campaign funds for him through indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson in 2010.

“We do not have sufficient evidence to convict any United States senator of any state crime, and our focus to date has not been on that prong of allegations and information received," Rawlings said. "It is our hope that the DOJ will re-engage related to any potential federal aspects of this case. However, we will not ignore potential state ramifications."

ABC News and the Washington Times ran a lengthy story Thursday raising questions about whether Lee and Reid sought or received money or other benefits from donors and fundraisers in connection with doing political favors or taking official actions.

The story also questions whether Lee provided accurate information when he bought, then sold his Alpine home for a big loss to a campaign contributor and federal contractor, leaving his mortgage bank to absorb large losses.

Gill said those allegations popped up in the course of the county investigation.

"Are we aware of this? Yes. Are they potentially serious allegations? Absolutely," he said.

But, Gill said, there are a "host of different little things out there" that are outside his jurisdiction but deserve to be looked into by the appropriate authorities. He said he couldn't be specific because of the ongoing investigation.

Lee spokesman Brian Phillips said on Friday: "The article doesn’t present any new information about Sen. Lee and he is looking forward to clearing things up." As it relates to the sale of the home, he said the senator filed all the required documentation.

The Utah House report released Wednesday tied Lee to Swallow and his effort to raise money for the senator's 2010 election campaign. Swallow — chief deputy attorney general at the time — enlisted Johnson to help but only after clearing it through his boss Shurtleff, who was the attorney general.

Swallow asked Shurtleff in a February 2010 email: "can i (sic) introduce Mike Lee to Jeremy Johnson?" Shurtleff replied, "Sure." Johnson was a large donor to Shurtleff's campaign fund.

Swallow was "working hard" to raise money for Lee before the June 22 primary election, according to the report.

An email exchange between Swallow and Johnson on June 21, 2010, suggests that he had asked Johnson to round up donations.

In one email, Swallow tells Johnson that "four of those checks bounced," to which Johnson replied, “I am really sorry about the checks. I will get it fixed ASAP! Let me know whos (sic) bounced. I was in a mad rush to get those so maybe I pushed a few people too hard."

The four checks totaling $9,600 were written by associates of Johnson.

Swallow forwarded the email exchange to a member of Lee's campaign staff. Johnson himself gave $2,400 to Lee’s primary campaign — the federal limit — on June 21, 2010.

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