The following is the transcript from this week’s Better UTAH Beat. It aired on February 19, 2013.
Embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow is back in the news as more claims come forward about his possible misdeeds and federal investigations. Meanwhile, his fellow Republicans are mixed in their support of his continuation as attorney general although the ranks of supporters appears to be rapidly shrinking.
Swallow remains resolute in maintaining his fitness for office. In an appearance at the legislature late last week Swallow was overheard saying, “I’m still standing.” But for those of us watching, we can’t help but wonder, at what cost?
The Salt Lake Tribune has issued yet another call for Swallow’s resignation. The Tribune claims that even if the accusations prove false, Swallow’s reputation is so badly tarnished that it effectively removes his ability to adequately do his job.
“No matter whose version of events proves to be the truth,” argued the Tribune. “Both the charges leveled against Swallow and the excuses he has made in his own defense make him an embarrassment to his office, and thus an impediment to the whole legal system.”
And the Tribune isn’t the only person feeling the heat of Swallow’s current morass. Last week’s latest hits were just more of the same adding to an ever growing list of bad news for John Swallow.
In an attempt to distance himself from the disgraced attorney general, and perhaps after beginning to feel the heat himself, Mark Shurtleff, Swallow’s former boss, recalled in a recent interview with the Salt Lake Tribune that he personally called for a federal investigation into Swallow’s activities while Swallow was Deputy Attorney General. Shurtleff said he initially felt like he was betraying a close friend by going to the Feds. But he soon came so convinced of the need for a federal investigation that he confronted Swallow, one week before the general election, told Swallow that he was going to the feds and that he should “do the same–as soon as possible.”
Other friends of Swallow are also beginning to speak out. Though interviewed on the condition of anonymity–a condition that speaks to fears of retribution on the part of the attorney general’s office–three businessmen have gone on record suggesting that Swallow was peddling influence in exchange for political influence. Over 50,000 dollars were donated by the three men or their companies for, according to one of the men, “a friend at the highest level of Utah law enforcement.” All three men were involved in the controversial direct marketing and Internet sales that have found friendly ground in Utah despite business practices that are unfriendly to consumers.
But disappointment with Swallow extends beyond the business community.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart has said she wouldn’t have voted for Swallow had she known about the current allegations. But does Lockhart mean to say she would have voted for the Democratic challenger? It’s easy for prominent Republicans to cast stones at Swallow after looking beyond past corrupt practices for so many years.
But despite increased calls for Swallow’s resignation, there are some in his party that are instead circling the wagons.
Swallow appeared before a joint appropriations committee on Friday to request increased funding for the Attorney General’s office. When members of the committee turned their attention to whether or not Swallow could provide the necessary stewardship over the funding given the current scandal, committee chair Sen. Daniel Thatcher ruled that line of questioning out of order.
According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, Thatcher engaged in a particularly humiliating act of obeisance by calling Swallow “General Swallow.” Swallow responded: “John is fine. … I’ve been called worse.” But although Democratic leaders like Rep. Brian King and Sen. Jim Dabakis, both members of the committee, attempted to ask questions related directly to the attorney general’s ability to conduct the affairs of his office, for which they, again, as committee members, were being asked to allocate additional funds, Thatcher refused to allow such questions.
Despite Republican recalcitrance, more and more are unwilling to accept that John Swallow is capable of exercising his constitutional duties. Rumors suggest the senate is preparing for a possible impeachment trial. We hope Swallow steps down before such a debacle is required. Perhaps he is waiting for the 3rd Tribune editorial calling for his resignation–what’s the saying–3rd time’s the charm?