In our opinion: With arrest of Shurtleff and Swallow, it's time to consider an appointed attorney general for Utah


Return To Article
  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    July 19, 2014 8:23 p.m.

    As always in a near democracy, responsibility for the good and bad falls to the people who vote. I'd say that, if nothing else, this will cause voters to exercise just a little more due diligence in their role as ultimate decision maker for our society.

    I don't and never have expected perfection in either the voters or the people they select. That is, obviously, foolish. After all, we're in the middle of Obama's **second** term, for crying out loud!! So, we all know mistakes have been and will be made. I just hope, against some discouraging evidence too frequently, that we will learn.

    As Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    July 18, 2014 5:38 p.m.

    I agree with 2 bits about corruption being possible in either party--but is more likely when one of them is virtually unopposed. I seriously expect to see more such problems come to light in the future.

    On a side note, the state school board is still elected. But the governor helps pick the candidates. The school board then appoints their Superintendent.

    I still support leaving these decisions in the hands of the voters. In a democracy we deserve what we get.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    July 18, 2014 10:57 a.m.

    The reason that the Democrats have no power in this state is because of their feckless policies. Once the democrats decide that they need to make some changes to be attractive to the masses, then things might change.

    Appointing the AG by the Gov is a very bad idea. That AG would be accountable only to the Gov. The Gov's agenda would trump and the office would become more political than it is. The AG would be political hack of the Gov.

  • Dutchman Murray, UT
    July 17, 2014 4:31 p.m.

    Utah has a part time legislature which serves as a check on the executive branch. It is only in session 45 days a year. When the legislature is not in session other elected officials serve as a check on the Governor and thus the power of the executive branch. The elected Attorney General is one of those elected officials that serves that role under the Utah Constitution. Allowing the Governor to appoint the Attorney General gives way too much power to the executive branch especially with a part time legislature.

  • Dutchman Murray, UT
    July 17, 2014 1:07 p.m.

    And the best example you have of an appointed Attorney General is the Federal Model? Eric Holder? John Mitchell? etc. No thanks!

  • Utefan60 Salt Lake City, UT
    July 17, 2014 11:02 a.m.

    I still miss Jan Graham. A Democrat elected when people voted for the best person and not buffaloed by party politics. It can happen if voters become independent from party politics.

  • BioPowertrain Detroit, MI
    July 16, 2014 7:43 p.m.

    @DN1: Great Job with the diagnosis. Please keep it up!
    @ND2: Why chicken out on your own diagnosis? Are you seriously suggesting we're better off appointing our AG instead of (1) actively developing a true two-party political system and (2) making our campaign finance laws the toughest and most transparent in the world?

    Here's my treatment plan recommendation, based on your very sound diagnosis:

    Treatment 1 (aka "The Chin"): "First, Utah lacks a robust two-party system". This is the #1 problem. So it isn't "better left for another day".

    Treatment 2 (aka "The Solar Plexus"): "Second, Utah has among the nation’s least restrictive campaign finance laws". This is sickening in light of how much emphasis we put on teaching our citizens to be honest and live with the highest degree of integrity.

    Come on DN! Roll up your sleeves, ball your fists and let fly some serious damage to this travesty's chin and solar plexus! Enough with the sleeping giant act! We all know you're entirely capable of rousing a truly effective solution to this nightmare. Get off your duff and whoop this sordid mess!

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    July 16, 2014 6:44 p.m.

    How would appointed AG's be any better than elected AG's?

    You would be concentrating power in the hands of one person. And power corrupts.

    The result is likely to be worse.

    The whole idea sounds suspiciously like the Führerprinzip of Nazi Germany.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    July 16, 2014 5:06 p.m.

    If you thought republican corruption was bad now? Just wait until you give the AG's office away to the republican governor's buddy. Think he'll ever prosecute the good ol boys club? Doubt it!

    We're resembling more early 20th century Germany or Russia with the consolidation of power and one-party rule.

  • Xplor Mesquite, NV
    July 16, 2014 3:43 p.m.

    The News offers a decent analysis of what led to this mess then advocates for the poorest solution.

    Obviously, a robust two party system would be the first best choice and admittedly the most difficult to implement without a major shift from deep within the Utah culture. That, if it ever happens at all, is decades away. In lieu of that, campaign finance reform is clearly the best bet for putting a stop to the practices Shurtleff and Swallow are accused of engaging in. Utah's lack of oversight in this area invites these kinds of financial shell games into the political arena and , human nature being what it is, there will always be those who accept the invite.

    Before we start advocating for further consolidation of power by handing the office of the A.G. over to, what will undoubtedly be, a Republican governor. Our last Democrat governor left office almost 30 years ago and no Democrat since has come anywhere within sight of that office. With Matheson vacating the last high profile position held by a democrat it makes no sense to make the office of the A.G. a wing of the Governor's office.

  • Atlas Smashed Santa Monica, CA
    July 16, 2014 2:17 p.m.

    @ 2 bits

    You are incorrect and Maverick is right.

    Utah is 1 of 3 states which allows unlimited donations to be given to elected officials. All other states have a system which prevents this from happening.

    All of your other points can be answered if you would just answer one question: how much is a clean, honest, and effective government worth to you?

    Many, like you, complain over the cost of these investigations. To me, eliminating corruption is worth every little penny. My god cannot tolerate corruption and neither shall I.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    July 16, 2014 1:20 p.m.

    I hate to see the Deseret News advocate an appointment process over trusting the will of the people. A gubernatorial appointee is no more likely to be upright. A system that breeds cronyism weaves its own webs of corruption.

    Better think twice and make sure the pros outweigh the cons before reverting to a past which were not always the good old days.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 16, 2014 12:28 p.m.

    We already have rules against lobbying when it crosses the line and becomes bribes. They broke those rules. That's the problem.... we need an easier way to find when people break the rules. This costs us tens of millions of dollars to find this instance. We can't afford that type of investigation every time. We need a better way.

    We already have laws against accepting gifts... they broke them... that's the problem!

    If it were "legal" for lobbyists to bribe officials... these officials wouldn't be in any trouble. They are in a LOT of trouble.

    New laws and anti-lobbyist rhetoric aren't the solution. Finding a way to enforce existing laws is the solution (but not an easy task).

    Maybe we need an attorney who just watches the AG... his correspondence, his meetings, his deals with constituents, etc? Oh wait... that's what Swallow was for Shurtleff (until Shurtleff retired)... I guess the problem is they were BOTH corrupt (evidently).

  • Schwa South Jordan, UT
    July 16, 2014 11:57 a.m.

    Making the position a political appointment just makes the AG beholden to the ruling party. If you think it will stop corruption, you are sorely mistaken. If anything, it will only make it worse.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    July 16, 2014 10:57 a.m.

    The dnews was advocating for the AG position being an appointed position since before Swallow was even inaugurated. So they're just using this terrible debacle as a way to promote their agenda.

    What's causing this problem? Let's get to the root of the disease. Money.

    Big donors, some criminal, like Johnson, are buying up our government. Our AG office isn't for sale, but our governor's office and legislative body. Our entire government is for sale. Now, some call this sale a form of free speech. Which is nothing but false and perverse. It's called bribery. Democracy cannot function when the people are competing with big money.

    Rather than treat the symptoms, as the dnews advocates, let's treat the disease.

    No more lobbying. Teachers cannot receive gifts of more than $25 dollars. Why should our reps he any different?

    Get rid of the lobbyists, enact tough campaign finance reform, and force our reps to disclose all their contributors. In time, I hope to see publicly financed elections. Why not?

    We the people control them, not big dirty business.

  • regis Salt Lake City, UT
    July 16, 2014 10:31 a.m.

    There is surely merit to the argument that AG's should be appointed, not elected. But that process would not necessarily do much to assure that no future Attorney General will ever again pursue unethical and/or illegal activities.

    Suppose the elected governor is him/herself a crook. He/she might easily be expected to appoint a crony, a partner-in-crime so to speak, to fill the AG position. Anyone recall Richard Nixon and his AG, John Mitchell?

    My point is that either procedure, election or appointment, holds the possibility of bad apples filling the attorney general position. The best protection the people have is to carefully inspect the background and resume of those seeking elected office, and vote accordingly.

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    July 16, 2014 9:57 a.m.

    Yes, top law enforcement should not be a get rich quick opportunity. Better the governor choosing than Eagle Forum.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 16, 2014 9:49 a.m.

    I agree with "DN Subscriber" who points out that AGs can become corrupt even AFTER they are elected. So we need a better watch-dog mechanism. what would that be... possibly the press??

    I disagree with "Strider303" who pretends electing D's would fix the problem. Obviuosly D's have the same corruption problems R's have (in Utah and outside, I can give you a long list of scandals D's have been involved in in Utah if you need a reminder). Neither party is immune to corruption.

    As for the "2 party system" angle. I think a 2 party system is absolutely needed. They should be the watch-dog for their own party AND the opposition party. Most party faithful won't turn their own people in... so it's important to have a different party that isn't afraid to turn them in. But having a 50-50 ratio... not needed.

    Having an AG who is a political adversary to the Governor... would doom the Governor. An adversarial AG would distract, investigate, block, and try to embarrass the Governor at EVERY turn (in hopes of getting bad-press for the Governor, and HIS party elected NEXT TIME).

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    July 16, 2014 9:33 a.m.


    1. No change in the Attorney General reporting relationship will occur.

    2. No change to campaign finance laws will occur.

    3. Ambitious, power hungry candidates will attract bigger sums of money and do whatever they have to in order to get their name on the ballot next to the letter "R".

    4. We'll see more instances like this in the future.

    In order for things to change, the public in Utah will have to demonstrate that they care.

    They're constrained by doing so because of a remarkably powerful social compliance phenomenon.

    "I need to do what others around me say and do. There is one true path. Swallow and Shurtleff exercised their agency in a poor manner, but what they stood for is everlasting truth".

  • nehimomma Parsons, KS
    July 16, 2014 9:33 a.m.

    Do people seriously think that the average Mormon Democratic person running for an office in Utah, actually disagrees with the church and agrees with their party platform? I don't agree with all of the GOP or DEM platform. Their platform is also nearly meaningless is most local elections.

    What the DN is trying to hint to, is that The man Shurtleff ran against was also LDS, and he wasn't less of a member because he was on the DEM ticket. He's now a Temple President. Does that sound like a man who has issues with the church? At least when Shurtleff first ran, their wasn't a hint of who he truly was. Swallow though is literally embarrassing. He never even made it to election day before his lack of integrity was showing. But Utah Mormons voted for him anyways. Stop voting for the party, and vote for the person instead.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 16, 2014 9:14 a.m.

    DN Subscriber has point. "Officials can go bad regardless of how they get into office, via ballot or appointment".

    And I think it's important to point out that Officials CAN go bad regardless of the letter by their name. Sorry... just electing Democrats does NOT solve the problem. My watching politics for years has shown me BOTH parties are EQUALLY prone to corruption. There is no political party that is immune. I think that's why the founding fathers gave us FREQUENT opportunities to remove/replace our officials (because TIME in office is also a contributing factor when it comes to "corruption").

    We either need a better way for the public to get to know the AG candidates and their personal integrity (not just their legal qualifications, or their political promises)... OR let the person with the most to lose appoint his AG (the Governor).

    That puts a LOT of responsibility on the Governor. But that may be a good thing. He is obligated to pick a person he knows intimately and is willing to gamble his whole career on that person's integrity. Because if he messes up... it ends BOTH of their careers.

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    July 16, 2014 8:50 a.m.

    I disagree that the AG should be appointed. It should be an elected office.

    Two party system? We have multiple parties but the people seem to gravitate to the R party. Perhaps a more enlightened electorate would consider what are called the Fringe parties. It is obvious that the D party doesn't fly with most of the state, except for the capitol city and it's east bench.

    Folks, this was not done in a vacuum. I am of the opinion that other people in the current and former state government knew of the trips, and the associations yet did or said nothing. Why?

    The newspapers were curiously quiet, with the budget constraints on printed media and the desire of media in general not to make waves it appears investigative journalism is on life support. Go along to get along, keeps advertisers happy and buying space and air time.

    Open and prompt disclosure of campaign finances and vigorous public debate, without moderator other than to keep time might prove interesting as all candidate could ask any question or speak to any subject and face questions and comment. A republican democracy takes time and involved citizens.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 16, 2014 8:46 a.m.

    Usually I would have a problem with this, because I have a fundamental belief that the people should CHOOSE their leaders (through a fair election process). But in a way, the job of AG should not be an elected position (The President APPOINTS his AG for instance).

    Who becomes AG should not be determined by who will promise the most goodies, or the most investigations, or the most political attacks (for votes). He's the legal council for the Governor and Legislature (they consult him and his department to determine if a law is legal or not before trying to pass it)... so I'm OK letting the Governor appoint the AG... the same way he appoints the rest of his cabinet. We don't vote on who will head up the DOT, Energy Dept, Education, etc. They are appointed.

    The AG works closely with the Governor AND legislature, so it SHOULD be someone they can work well with. Not a political adversary, who's trying to stop everything and make the Governor look bad.

    It's in the Governor's interest to appoint an AG with integrity. If AG messes up... they BOTH look corrupt... and get unelected.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 16, 2014 8:38 a.m.

    Officials can go bad regardless of how they get into office, via ballot or appointment. It is important that bad conduct can be detected and punished. The system works.

    Appointing powerful state officials accumulates power in the hands of the Governor who would appoint the AG. That is much more likely to be abused than the current system.

    Voters need a choice, and they need the power to throw out an AG at regular intervals via the ballot box.

    As others have pointed out, the example of Eric Holder's conduct in office is proof that having an appointed AG can prevent prosecution of massive corruption throughout government agencies. That is a far worse disaster than when corruption is confined to a single office, even the AG's office.

    We have checks and balances, and still (barely) the rule of law. And, it works. Otherwise two former Attorneys General would not have been arrested.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    July 16, 2014 8:25 a.m.

    Re: ". . . it's time to consider an appointed attorney general for Utah"

    Yeah, that'll fix everything. Then, instead of sucking up to voters and campaign contributors, the AG can suck up to, cover for, deflect criticism of, and legally protect the governor who appointed him -- right or wrong.

    That works so well in the federal system -- not. Just look at Obama's Holder, or Nixon's Mitchell. Or, even better, look at the thoroughly politicized federal judiciary.

    Removing government officials from accountability to the people -- particularly those with nearly unfettered discretion in matters of importance to real people -- is never a good idea.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    July 16, 2014 7:33 a.m.

    Just Gordon: The point is that an appointed Attorney General couldn't accept campaign contributions that might be misused.

    We do need a good two party system. Unfortunately the Democrats have made that almost impossible. Very few people in this state can support the Democrat platform in good conscience or vote for a candidate who does support it. The Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for this.

  • airnaut Everett, 00
    July 16, 2014 7:32 a.m.

    I'm not so upset with the arresting of these 2,

    as I am with the REPUBLICANS who --
    Voted for them,
    rather than admitting they were snookered --

    Fell on their swords defending the un-defendable,
    and when that wasn't enough,
    attacked those who WERE investigating as being politically motivated,
    and when that wasn't enough,
    STILL are defending them for being Republicans and "good" Mormons.

    BTW --
    We just spent 3 weeks stupdying King David in Gospel Dotrine,
    the lesson is sometimes even "good" people make serious mistakes and SINS.

    Defending their evil acts, is not what we are supposed to do,
    but rather hope, pray and help them "repeant" of their sins...

    BTW -- Defending someone because their Political Party is how the Nazis got away with everything they did...

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    July 16, 2014 7:30 a.m.

    JustGordon nails it. These charges are not shocking.

    What actually *is* alarming is that this situation is just now considered "shocking".

    I would imagine a fairly high percentage of Utah voters still have no idea this is going on, because they're on a cruise control, their electoral choices predetermined long before the candidates are even named.

  • Curmudgeon Salt Lake City, UT
    July 16, 2014 7:09 a.m.

    Bad idea. The attorney general should be independent of the governor, lest he or she be reluctant to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing within the executive branch for fear of losing his or her appointment.

    The only viable way to have an appointed AG is to have candidates vetted by an independent, bi-partisan commission. But that's one more step removed from government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Elections certainly have their flaws, and campaign law reform is long overdue in Utah, but at least with elections we only have ourselves to blame when we vote a bad apple into office. The founders of Utah's constitution were wise in requiring the AG to be elected.

    July 16, 2014 6:59 a.m.

    This is a terrible idea. For one, this means that whatever side (democratic or republican) wins the governor's race, they automatically win the AG as well. This increases cronyism, allowing the gov to appoint whichever of his buddies he chooses (regardless of merit), and increases the chances of corruption as the gov can now use the AG to shield his buddies. You want to get corruption out of the AG office? Elect Charles Stormont.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    July 16, 2014 6:50 a.m.

    The AG would be subject to similar conflicts of interest whether elected or appointed. Just look at the issues we have had with Holder at the national level.

  • ordinaryfolks seattle, WA
    July 16, 2014 6:48 a.m.

    I would love to hear the arguments about why Utah is a one party state. However, I know it will devolve into a LDS bashing or a spate of LDS excuses. Suffice it to say regardless of cause, a vigorous political competition is needed, but will not occur in the near future, whatever the sociological reasons.

    I do believe that the DN has a good point on campaign reform. Why not just make full, complete and rapid disclosure the law as a start? The best deodorant in the world is a good dose of sunshine. If people know from whence cometh the $ for candidate A or B, maybe that would inform them better on who A or B is beholden to. Rats hide in the dark, and flourish in dank corners.

  • Atlas Smashed Santa Monica, CA
    July 16, 2014 6:17 a.m.

    Why not have stronger campaign finance laws?

    Or even better yet, make lobbyists illegal and begin publicly funded elections.

    Why not?

  • mohokat Ogden, UT
    July 16, 2014 5:28 a.m.

    Appointed A.G.? Would that be like Erick Holder? Sheltered from the voters?

  • JustGordon Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 16, 2014 5:15 a.m.

    I am not sure why these charges are "shocking." The allegations and involvement of both these individuals has been in the news for months. The informed reader should be "shocked" if there were no indictments given the details being reported in a wide variety of new media.

    Given the reality that both Shurtleff and Swallow are from the Republican party as is the governor and the vast majority of the legislature, one has to ask how making the office of attorney general a political appointment would guarantee that such misuse of public office would be stopped? Would not the attorney general be even more politicized as an appointee? Responsible only to those who appointed him and not the people of the state of Utah s/he is sworn to protect? Insulating the chief law enforcement officer by making him an appointee is a step in the wrong direction.

  • prelax Murray, UT
    July 16, 2014 2:57 a.m.

    Should we appoint all of our elected officials? Any position in Government can become corrupt.

  • Bob K Davis, CA
    July 16, 2014 2:00 a.m.

    A poor solution.

    Since other Utah officials can be called hacks who cater mainly to the church and rich mormon donors, they should not be appointing law enforcement officers.

    A better solution would be for the church to make a statement that it wishes Utah to have the best possible Government, even when it means that some Government officials disagree with the church, sometimes. The church ought to state that the Constitution of Utah must come before any religion in running Utah as a secular State of the USA.

    I don't mean that Utah should get atheists in office -- most of the candidates will be mormons -- but that the candidates should be encouraged to place the Constitution first.
    Of course, they would also have to show good moral values to win election by the voters.

    Good officials with good values will naturally please the church and its members most of the time. Hacks who have lds support but poor talents ought to be gone.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 16, 2014 1:12 a.m.

    With the departure of Swallow, there was an opportunity to raise heck and upset the apple cart at the AG's office - just what it needs. But because of Utah's Quixotic crusade against SSM we got Reyes, probably a decent guy but not the sort we need to open the doors and windows of the AG's office to fresh air.

    I received a lot of laughs and criticisms (from fellow left-wingers) when I proposed that Governor Herbert appoint Libertarin Andy McCullough AG (an office for which he has often run). He would have been just what the doctor ordered (and what fun!)

    Now nothing much is going to change - Utah's one party structure will to see to that as the Deseret News says. But the D-News' prescription won't cut it either - it just means more Republicanism piled higher and deeper.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    July 16, 2014 12:59 a.m.

    The Dnews advocates for an appointed attorney general but this is all on the voters who voted for swallow. The allegations that faced swallow were brought to light before the election but the voters elected him anyway over a seasoned county prosecutor.

    Why? Because he had a D next to his name. Law enforcement offices should be non partisan and that is what the Dnews should be advocating.