With Swallow, we got what we deserved

The last six months have been full of allegations against Attorney General John Swallow. But it didn’t just start in January with the first public accusation. This saga has been going on for years, starting with Mark Shurtleff, Swallow’s 12-year predecessor.


The truth is, everyone on this side of the political game knew about Shurtleff’s quid-pro-quo dealing. His financial reports are full of less than savory donors—telemarketers, payday lenders, MLM companies, etc. If you peruse even one of his filings, it becomes clear that he never met a check he didn’t like.

Of course, we have extremely lax campaign finance laws so none of those donations were technically illegal. But is that really the best we can expect–our candidates and elected officials to just barely skirt the law, especially when we’re talking about our top law enforcement official for the state?

If being convicted of a crime is the only impetus for removing an elected official from office, then we have set the bar too low. The fact that his behavior, and that of the people he chose to involve himself with, triggered an investigation by the FBI and Dept. of Justice, shows just how poorly aligned his moral compass is—a moral compass that has no place in the Attorney General’s office.

We’ve been in the thick of the Swallow mess since our initial filing with the Utah State Bar and our election law violation claim with the Lt. Governor’s Office. And in many interviews I have repeatedly said, “We deserve better.” But the more I think about it, the less I am certain of that statement.

Do we really deserve better? Do we pay close enough attention to people running for office? Do we actually listen to both candidates? Do we look any further than their party and religious affiliation before casting our votes and presume that those two identifiers are sufficient?

When faced with opposition to their chosen candidate, the all too often response is “but he seems like such a nice man.”  Great, invite him to a barbecue. But before we elect this person to a higher office we owe it to ourselves and to our fellow Utahns to do a little research. Read an opposing viewpoint and discuss it with both candidates.

If we’ve done our part and it turns out that we have elected someone, who by some twist of fate turns out to be a bad guy after all, we can genuinely say we were surprised. We can’t say that with Swallow and we certainly couldn’t say that for Shurtleff, and he served three terms.

Instead of deserving better, perhaps we have gotten exactly what we deserve.

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