This is the longest blog post I have ever published at over 3200 words – and even then, it’s still just a summary. Many of the allegations leveled at John Swallow are substantiated in his own words, either written or verbal. I have tried to provide as many original sources as I could find so that you can read and listen for yourself.
I have been accused of leading a witch hunt – I’m not. I’ve been told that John Swallow is a victim of the media. He’s not. If he is a “victim” of anything, it’s of his own bad behavior. I’ve heard that there’s nothing anyone can do because no crimes were committed after John Swallow was sworn in as Attorney General. As Representative Spencer Cox said, “It stretches credulity to say there will be no consequences as long as you can hide your misdeeds until you get into office.” I’ve heard “It could happen to anyone” and “Everyone makes mistakes.” While everyone does make mistakes and sometimes really dumb ones, it defies belief to say that a 10-year pattern is just a long series of whoopsies.
Ethics is not and should not be a partisan issue.
Public trust is not to be treated lightly.
I will be at the House GOP caucus tomorrow as they discuss impeachment. As a former member of the House and someone who has been following this closely, I’ve been asked many times what *I* believe is impeachable. While there are many potential impeachable avenues to explore, there is one over-riding issue for me: A decade-long pattern of questionable, unethical behavior which has led to a complete rupture in the public trust.
Swallow runs for US Congress. Failed to disclose a number of campaign donations that did not meet FEC guidelines. Fined $8000 by the FEC. Settled in 2007.
2006 or 2007
Swallow says he met Marc Jenson at a softball game. The AG at the time, Mark Shurtleff, had an ongoing relationship with Jenson starting around 2004.
Swallow and Shurtleff tried to negotiate a plea-deal for Jenson consisting of a plea of no contest, a $15,000 fine and no jail time. It was shot down by the judge for being too lenient. Instead, a plea-in-abeyance was entered and $4.1M fine imposed, meant to be used for restitution.
- Swallow is chief fundraiser for Shurtleff’s Senate campaign
- Swallow meets with at least 3 businessmen soliciting campaign donations. Tells them: “If it’s somebody we’re not familiar with, we’re just going to treat it normally and prosecute it like we normally would. But if you donate to the campaign, you’re going to lunch with Shurtleff. He’s going to know you. He’s going to know what you’re doing. And when we get complaints coming across our desk, we’ll take that into consideration.”
- Swallow emails Jeremy Johnson soliciting campaign funds.
- May: Shurtleff offers Darl McBride $2M to delete a website about his former business partner who is under investigation. Tells McBride he’ll raise it from Marc Jenson, saying “I think he’d do it. I’ve kind of got a weird relationship [with Jenson] because he is still under a plea-in-abeyance program. We put him on a three-year plea-in-abeyance. He’s got to pay the money back. If he does that, the charges will be dropped. … He’s got every motivation in the world.”
- Entire conversation recorded and is in the hands of the FBI.
- May: Swallow goes to Pelican Hill
- June: Swallow goes to Pelican Hill
- Aug: Swallow and Shurtleff go to “Pelican Hill” at Marc Jenson’s expense. Swallow goes as Shurtleff’s fundraiser. Shurtleff asks Jenson for $2M to “take care of business” with Darl McBride in Swallow’s presence. Receipts are available with Swallow’s name charging to Marc Jenson’s account here and here.
- Nov 4: Shurtleff drops out of US Senate race.
- Dec: Swallow appointed chief deputy AG
- Feb: As Deputy AG, Swallow continues to solicit a business relationship with Jeremy Johnson. He emails Johnson about a “Cash for Gold” deal and says he’s “very close” to Richard Rawle, owner of Check City. He praises Jeremy Johnson, saying:“You’ve been busy and I could not be more proud of how you represented Utah. Don’t be surprised if a medal of honor comes your way….I hunger to sit down with you and hear it all…Do me a favor and let’s find a way to make it happen soon. BTW, and please keep this confidential, but….I hear that the Cash for Gold opportunity is getting close. I have heard from the Check City people that they have been working with your team but that there might have been some hang ups…You know the games people play and people play games. But Check City does not – this is an inside deal and I am very close to them……So, in case things are getting warped at all, have your guys call me….Email publicly available.
- March: Series of emails over whether or not Shurtleff and Swallow would sign off on legality of Johnson processing payments for online poker companies
- July: Swallow emails Johnson to say he was “not aware of any such law in Utah to prohibit what you’re doing” in processing poker payments from players outside the state
- Summer: Swallow hangs out on Johnson’s luxury houseboat, does not disclose donation in-kind.
- Aug-Sept: Emails between Swallow, Johnson, Shurtleff discuss arranging meetings with top Utah office holders and an FTC investigation of Johnson’s iWorks company. Email now public.
- Sept: Swallow contacts Johnson to arrange meeting with Richard Rawle to arrange lobbying of Harry Reid. Email available here
- Oct: Richard Rawle forms RMR Consulting
- Nov: RMR retained with a $50,000 down payment. iWorks ledger shows $50K payment to RMR. $200,000 comes from Scott Leavitt. Of the $250K, $50K went to DC lobbying firm TR Rupli, $50K to a Vegas law firm, $50K for Rawle’s fee, plus an additional $100K kept by Rawle. Swallow gets $23,500 out of Rawle’s fee for consulting on a cement plant.
- Dec: FTC sues Johnson, iWorks, other officers and related companies
- Mar: Aaron Christner is fined $400,000 in an administrative hearing by the Utah Division of Consumer Protection. A year later, candidate John Swallow tells Christner in a recorded conversation that he wants to move Consumer Protection under the AG’s office.
- April: Swallow announces he is running for Utah Attorney General
- June: Jeremy Johnson is arrested
- Swallow subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury on the Worldwide Environmental Products re: bid fixing
- March: Filed financial disclosures, leaves out consulting fee, amended return to remove his name from P-Solutions, still does not disclose wife’s interest in the company, fails to disclose financial interest in another company, SSV
- April 7: Swallow speaks to business owner Aaron Christner about moving Consumer Protection under AG’s office when elected. “The way Utah’s so dysfunctional right now, is the client is the Department of Consumer Protection, and that is not someone we control or even influence greatly. It’s because they work for the Governor’s office right now and when I’m Attorney General – you know, this is kind of confidential – but I’m going to try to restructure it so that Consumer Protection is under the AG and the AG has more authority over those investigations. In fact, complete authority over that.” Later, a bar complaint will be filed alleging that Swallow violated attorney-client privilege. Indeed in the conversation, he indicates the Dept of Consumer Protection IS THE CLIENT. Conversation is recorded and available here.
- April 30: Swallow meets Jeremy Johnson at a Krispy Kreme in Orem. Swallow admits receiving 2 checks from RMR Consulting. Conversation is recorded, photographs are taken.
- Swallow agrees with suggestion to buy WalMart phones that can’t be traced
- Swallow says he may indeed be the target of a federal investigation. Say’s “It’s gotta be me” that is the target of an FBI investigation.
- Swallow voices fears he could lose his law license and end up a felon
- Swallow asks about a paper trail on the lavish houseboat Johnson owned and Swallow used.”Do they know about the houseboat? Is there any paper trail on that?” “There’s no paper trail on the houseboat. Nobody knows about it,” Johnson assures him.”There’s no email, there’s no … ” Swallow continues before Johnson interrupts.”No emails on the thing,” Johnson reiterates, “and, no, my wife doesn’t even know you were on there.”
- Also notable is what Swallow does NOT say
- May: Swallow receives 3 donations from a company under investigation with the Dept of Commerce. Each donation is within days of a Dept of Commerce action and once the very same day.
- In all, Swallow took in more than $100,000 from companies already in trouble with the state.
- June: Campaign flyer released alleging Swallow was under federal investigation for intervening with a Salt Lake County bid process. The flyer indicates there was a contract dispute involving Salt Lake County and Worldwide Environmental Products. Worldwide alleged the bid was rigged. Swallow and Asst AG Alan Bachman both called SL county attorneys and threatened them with an AG investigation. Sim Gill called the FBI and asked them to open an investigation into the bid process.
- A grand jury was convened, Swallow, Bachman and his paralegal were the only ones interviewed. They were also subpoenaed to testify but the case was scrapped at the last minute.
- Jason Powers confirmed Swallow HAS talked to the FBI – as an informant, not a suspect. Swallow says nothing, but his campaign sends 2 emails and 1 from Mark Shurtleff via Utah GOP, all virtually identical, accusing the Democrats of “illegal lies”. Mark Shurtleff also does a robo-dial tying Sean Reyes to the Democrats who sent the mailer, though there is no evidence then or now to support that allegation.
- Oct: Mark Shurtleff informs FBI of potential federal crimes committed by John Swallow. Does not inform lawmakers or the public that there is now an FBI investigation on a candidate for public office.
- Nov 6: Swallow wins election
- Nov: Shurtleff again meets with FBI and DOJ about his Deputy AG. “The stuff John’s admitted was upsetting to me, clearly. I didn’t know,” Shurtleff said. “After he told me he’d been consulting on the Nevada cement project, I was, ‘What? What? Why?'”
- Nov 27: Scott Leavitt of iWorks signs affidavit that he paid Rawle $200,000
- Dec 5: Richard Rawle learns from his doctors that his battle with lymphoma has reached the end and he has only days to live. Friends and family gather to say goodbye. John Swallow comes to get a deathbed affidavit signed. The affidavit lists money Swallow was paid by RMR consulting while still Deputy AG.
- Dec 8: Rawle dies.
- Jan 5: John Swallow sworn in
- Jan 12: Story breaks tying new AG to Jeremy Johnson and$250K paid to “lobby” Harry Reid. Swallow responds to initial stories about malfeasance. Denies he was paid for any consulting jobs.
- Emails provided as well as 60 pages of a recorded April 2012 Krispy Kreme meeting. (See links above)
- Swallow denies being interviewed by the FBI or US Attorney’s office, denies Mark Shurtleff discussed dropping out of the race for AG, says “I do not anticipate being contacted.”
- FBI later confirms it has been investigating Swallow since before his election. Swallow’s campaign consultant confirmed Swallow HAD talked to the FBI in 2012. Mark Shurtleff later confirms he was disappointed and surprised to hear that Swallow had been “moonlighting.” Reported his own Deputy to the FBI before the election. Did not let members of the public know there were concerns and an on-going investigation.
- Jan 13: Provo’s Daily Herald calls on Swallow to resign
- Jan 15: Swallow requests US atty for Utah investigate Johnson’s allegations
- Jan 17: Federal regulators seek to shut down another AG donor – The Tax Club, alleging the business had scammed customers out of $220 million.
- Jan 24: Utah GOP head Thomas Wright says Swallow made a mistake, seeks ethics changes
- Jan 25: US Attorney’s Office for Utah acknowledged John Swallow is being investigated in coordination with the DOJ and FBI. Neither the DOJ nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office typically confirms investigations, but an exception was made “because of the extraordinary public interest in this matter, we want to reassure the public that we, along with the FBI, have been investigating the allegations and will follow the facts and the law in doing so
- Jan 28: One aspect of the money trail between Swallow, Johnson and Rawle laid out in detail
- Jan 30: Jeremy Johnson goes public with details of what he calls a “shake-down” by the AG’s office.
- Feb 13: 3 contributors to Shurtleff’s campaign allege Swallow offered regulatory protection if they contributed
- March – “John Swallow” bills pass the Utah legislature, including one the last day of the session placing investigation of the AG under the LG and not the AG
- May: Confirmation that 2 other investigations are under way – SL atty, Davis county atty
- May 6: US Attorney steps aside, DOJ steps in. Swallow’s attorney admits his “sense of the investigation is that it’s broader than what any of us realize.”
- May 7: Former director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and former asst attorney general Traci Gunderson filed a complaint with the bar, alleging violation of ethical standards for breaking attorney-client privilege. Swallow’s office issued a statement saying no meeting took place, yet a recording of the April 7, 2012 meeting was made and is publicly available.
- May 12: Tribune calls on Swallow to resign
- May 14: Utah’s Lt Gov to appoint special investigator to look into Swallow’s campaign finance irregularities.
- May 15: St. George Spectrum calls for Swallow’s resignation “Swallow has become an embarrassment to the Republican Party and to the state. His credibility is next to zero, meaning he cannot be effective for Utah taxpayers as he argues federal authorities over such critical issue as public lands, immigration, health care reform and other laws that could greatly impact our state.The best-case scenario is for Swallow to resign. Short of that, he should, in effect, suspend himself until all of these investigations are completed. With all of these allegations swirling around, he can’t be an effective attorney general for the people of Utah.”
- May 24: Rep Paul Ray becomes first lawmaker to call for Swallow’s resignation. AG’s spokesman responds by saying resignation is off the table and so is the AG placing himself on administrative leave.
- May 25: Story runs citing record low morale in the AG’s office. In fact, morale is the “lowest I’ve ever seen” says an employee there for more than 15 years. Some believe the agency’s image has been irreparably harmed. For the first time in their careers, they’re ashamed to say they work at the attorney general’s office. “A day does not go by that I don’t hear an employee say, ‘I wish he [Swallow] would just do the honorable thing and walk away,’
- May 25: A separate story by a different news organization runs a story citing campaign finance irregularities. 26 online direct marketing companies donated to John Swallow. Only 5 reported their contributions. One company reported donating $15,000 but the Swallow campaign only reported $10,000. Jason Powers says it’s the fault of the accountant and they’ll amend a return “if necessary.” No amended returns have been filed.
- May 30: Utah House sets aside all of June 19th majority caucus to discuss impeachment
- May 30: Stories surface of Swallow continuing to seek business relationships with Jeremy Johnson’s iWorks company after he is already Deputy AG. (See previous details from Feb 2010)
- May 31: First lawmaker openly discusses impeachment
- June 5: Sutherland Institute calls for Swallow’s resignation. Says “Politics breeds cultures of corruption. Frankly, many aspects of the political process, to be effective, require levels of confidentiality. Unfortunately, the need for confidentiality can turn into a cloak of secrecy and scheming. A culture of corruption is nearly inevitable – which is why good government requires openness and transparency… A person of integrity holding public office would put that office before himself. The point about integrity isn’t about function as much as it is about the confidence that citizens have in the people they elect – especially the person they elect to be the state’s top cop. There are few disappointments in politics worse than perceived, let alone real, corruption within law enforcement. John Swallow is the chief law enforcement officer in Utah and precisely because I believe that he strives to be a man of integrity, he should step down.”
- June 5: Swallow’s attorneys send a letter to John Fellows stating it would be unethical and likely illegal to impeach him.
- June 6: Alliance for a Better Utah calls on Swallow to resign
- June 11: Gov Herbert says “If John Swallow worked for me, he’d be gone.” Swallow issues a written statement saying he is disappointed in the Governor and “it could happen to anyone”
- June 12: John Swallow speaks publicly, says Herbert cannot fire him. Says he has committed no crime as AG. Appears on the Doug Wright show, talks with Rod Decker of Channel 2 and Ninevah Dinha of Fox 13. On Doug Wright, he denies buying an argyle sweater and bottled water on Marc Jenson’s tab, says he doesn’t like sweaters and drinks tap water. Receipts with his name and signature show otherwise. With Rod Decker, when questioned about Marc Jenson paying expenses, he says he doesn’t remember, then says he and his wife paid. Then he thinks Jenson’s business paid, then says it doesn’t matter, he was a private attorney, fails to mention he was Shurtleff’s chief fundraiser and they were on fundraising trips. He went to Pelican Hill in May, June and July but answers questions as if it were one trip.
- June 14: Reports emerge of Swallow taking $105,000 in donations from people whose businesses were already under investigation.
- June 15: Eagle Forum sends out an “Action Alert” telling their supporters that Swallow has done nothing wrong, then repeats talking points from the letter Swallow’s attorneys sent to the legislature.
- June 15: big news breaks as Marc Jenson’s attorneys file a motion asking the courts to recuse the Attorney General’s office from the case, then lay out in detail years of illegal “shake down”. Additional, credible witnesses file sworn affidavits, providing 3rd party validation. Confirmation from 2 county attorneys that Swallow has been under investigation for some time, additional information about the actual charges Jenson was convicted of (fraudster was not it) and the stunning revelation that Rod Snow, Swallow’s attorney, was actually Marc Jenson’s attorney in 2005. “Swallow’s personal attorney was Mr. Jenson’s counsel in 2005 when charges were first brought against him – and he is now acting as one of Swallow’s spokespeople and disparaging Mr. Jenson in the press to suggest, among other things, that Mr. Jenson has been convicted of “fraud” notwithstanding that Jenson’s plea in 2005 was merely for selling unregistered securities. And, as Swallow’s current counsel described the case against Jenson in 2005, when he was representing Jenson: it was “a totally bull s*** case.” Rod Snow responds by saying the fraudster in jail should not be trusted.
- June 16: DNews publishes additional information from the June 15 court filing, including details about 2 additional witnesses backing up extortion claims.
- June 17: Quin Monson, from the BYU Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, published a poll showing a strong majority of Utah voters – 78% -want Swallow to resign and if he won’t, over 71% wants the legislature to begin impeachment proceedings. Swallow has the worst approval rating in Utah political history at 11.8% and the highest unfavorable rating ever at 73%. Swallow’s office responds by saying they are not surprised by the polling but “it would be disappointing if legislators act based on baseless allegations.”