Swallow Scandal Results in Campaign Finance Changes

Mar 14, 2014

The scandal surrounding former Utah Attorney General John Swallow not only ended in his resignation, but also brought about several changes to Utah’s campaign finance reporting laws. 

The House’s investigation into John Swallow came with a price tag of about $4 million. A cost House Speaker Becky Lockhart says was well worth it.

“It was a high cost, but we cannot put a price on public trust," she says. "One does not cut corners when the very integrity of the justice system is at question.”

The investigation resulted in a 200-page report that describes in great detail how Swallow attempted to hide who was contributing to his campaign, and how he figuratively hung a for sale sign on the Attorney General’s office. Committee Chairman Jim Dunnigan says their work also resulted in several recommendations on how the legislature could prevent another similar situation in the future.

“We had 165 witnesses and from them we learned how some of the games were played and how some of the loopholes were taken advantage of," he says. "So, we tried to address those as best we could.”

The legislature ended up passing three bills this session regarding the issue. One addresses campaign finance reporting laws, another the power of legislative subpoenas, and the third creates a penalty for obstructing a legislative investigation. The biggest change for political candidates is that they will be required to itemize how paid political consultants spend the money they’ve given them, and candidates will have to disclose more information about potential conflicts of interests. While Dunnigan says this year’s legislation is a good start, there's more to be done.

“What moonlighting should be allowed by elected officials?" he says. "For example, should certain people in the Attorney General’s office be allowed to moonlight? Or is there a potential conflict there? So, that’s one that we need to work on and there’s some others but I think we’ve made some good progress.”

The bills now await the signature of the Governor. If signed, the changes to the campaign finance reporting law will go into effect immediately and impact this year’s elections.