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House committee issues 9 new subpoenas in Swallow investigation

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 10:35 p.m. MDT

A legislative investigation into embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow intensified Friday, a day after he suggested state lawmakers have it in for him. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) A legislative investigation into embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow intensified Friday, a day after he suggested state lawmakers have it in for him. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative investigation into embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow intensified Friday, a day after he suggested that state lawmakers have it in for him.

The Utah House special investigative committee issued nine new subpoenas aimed at the first-term Republican's campaign finances, state-related travel and missing computer files and emails.

"The subpoenas are a continuing part of our investigation to determine the facts," said committee Chairman Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville.

Seven of the demands for information were served on Swallow's campaign consultant Jason Powers and his company Guidant Strategies and five political action committees for which Powers is the registered agent — Proper Role of Government Action Fund, Proper Role of Government Defense Fund, Proper Role of Government Education Association, Protect Utah PAC and Utah's Prosperity Foundation.

Powers is a well-connected political strategist who also has worked for Swallow's predecessor Mark Shurtleff, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and state legislators.

Swallow raised $1.3 million for the 2012 election. Some of the largest donations came from Internet companies offering programs to get rich or coaching services for online businesses, sites that often draw attention from state and federal regulators.

New subpoenas also went to the attorney general's office — for a second time — and the state travel office, making a total of 12 the committee has issued to date. Provo-based Softwise Inc. a payday loan software company that once employed Swallow, filed a court motion Thursday to quash the subpoena it received in October.

Investigators also reported last month that they have interviewed more than 60 witnesses.

On Thursday, Swallow criticized the bipartisan panel's lead counsel Steve Reich for delivering a report about the missing computer data this week that he said was "sensationalized" and calculated to "inflame and enrage" lawmakers.

Swallow said the committee has become politicized and "taking steps way beyond where I think they need to go." He suggested it wants to find something on him to justify the investigation's $3 million budget.

"I think it's a virtual impossibility that that committee could spend $3 million and be satisfied to come up with a clean bill of health for me," he said.

Dunnigan said the committee — composed of five Republicans and four Democrats — has no preconceived ideas of where the investigation will lead. He said its inquiry has been fair, even-handed and methodical.

Reich described a "troubling" pattern of missing documents in the attorney general's office and said the committee should find out if the deletions were intentional. He said information the committee might find relevant to its investigation is gone from every electronic device Swallow has had since he served as chief deputy in December 2009.

Swallow denied intentionally removing any data pertinent to any investigation.

Republicans, though, aren't buying it much — and Democrats not at all.

A new Utah Policy/KSL survey of political insiders from both parties indicated that only 10 percent of Republicans believe he is telling the truth, while 72 percent say he's trying to cover something up. On the Democratic side, none believe him and 97 percent smell a cover-up. Respondents include current and past GOP and Democratic elected officials, government leaders and lobbyists.

"I lack a little credibility right now," Swallow said Thursday. "I understand that."

On Friday, the Alliance for a Better Utah, an advocacy group that often challenges Utah's Republican majority, again demanded Swallow's ouster, this time saying the governor should step in and call on the attorney general to resign.

Gov. Gary Herbert has previously said that if Swallow worked for him, he would be gone. But he has not called for him to step down.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy; DNewsPolitics

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