Committee Report Shows AG's Office Was For Sale Under Swallow
During day two of the House Investigative Committee’s report on former Attorney General John Swallow, investigators described a web of organizations that Swallow used to hide and obscure money received from payday lending companies. Chief investigator James Mintz said he accomplished this with the help of campaign consultant Jason Powers, who created most of the shell organizations.
"This whole thing was one structure. Jason Powers ties it together. The presence of those other two staffers, Cory Chan and Jessica Fawson ties it together, and the fact that they created these entities all on the same date ties it together,” Mintz said.
Investigators also pointed to an email Swallow sent to leaders of major payday lending companies during his campaign for Attorney General as part of that proof. In the email, Swallow asked them to donate payday money to the Utah Prosperity Foundation, a PAC created by Mark Shurtleff. Large amounts of money from that PAC eventually made its way to Swallow’s campaign.
Chief Counselor Steve Reich described the situation this way.
“You see that Mr. Swallow has sensitivity about raising money from the payday industry, yet you also see in the same email that he desperately wants that money. You also see that he wants that money quietly. He doesn’t want it out in the public because he’s concerned that he not be perceived as the candidate of the payday industry,” Reich said.
Investigators also outlined the way that Swallow gave to and received special benefits from Check City owner Richard Rawle, St. George Businessman Jeremy Johnson, and Swallow supporters Timothy and Jennifer Bell. In one instance they showed emails where Swallow advised Johnson and Rawle on what to do with an investigation by the FTC.
Special Counsel Steve Ross said because of the nature of these relationships there seems to be an abdication of what the role of the state’s senior law enforcement officials should have been.
“What you see is the danger of a government official in essence hanging up a for sale sign on the state’s Attorney General office,” Ross said.
Investigators said they weren’t able to get to the bottom of every issue because the committee put an end to the investigative efforts after Swallow’s resignation. But almost every member of the committee expressed a desire that the investigators be able to continue their work, even if that means broadening the scope of the committee.
House Majority Leader Brad Dee said he thinks it will be worth it to allow the investigators to get to the bottom of the issues.
“I think that we’re treating the symptoms but we’re getting nearer to the illness, and I think that if we were to continue and move forward with that we could commit to the citizens of Utah that we could indeed find out the problem and fix it,” Dee said.
He added, “I think once you view where we are at this particular time I think most will understand there is still work to be done.”
So far the House has spent more than $3 million on the investigation. Committee chairman Jim Dunnigan said continuing the investigation would likely add a couple more million to that total.