(The jury’s still out on whether the story will wind up being a saga or a scandal… right now, I’m guessing the latter. In the meantime, the story just got stranger.)
Over the course of the last few weeks, a lot has happened:
- The US Department of Justice issued a letter to Swallow and his predecessor Mark Shurtleff that they would not pursue charges. Whether that’s because nothing happened, because there isn’t enough evidence or for some other reason, we’ll never know.
- Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell announced that he would step down for financial reason. I join most Utahns, on both sides of the aisle, in expressing my sorrow and gratitude to the man. He’s a rare breed, and he will be missed.
- Utah Policy Daily gum shoe Bryan Schott observed that leaked documents from the Governor’s office peg the date to replace Bell as September 26th.
- The House investigation committee revealed that the investigation into Swallow will cost a lot of money. No surprise there, but getting the news that the bill for the lead attorney would be $750 an hour proved to be a jolt.
And then comes this: Timothy Lawson,variously known a Mark Shurtleff’s fixer or, by his own account, the “citizen from hell,” wants to replace Bell as Lieutenant Governor of Utah and has submitted his name for approval.
First off, who is Lawson? He first appeared in connection to the Swallow case in May.
In May 2013, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Tim Lawson had been approached by federal investigators investigating allegations of corruption having to do with Attorney General John Swallow. Lawson, for a time, declined to speak with the media, but recently called City Weekly to say he was free to speak openly to the press once again.
As the stories rolled out, Lawson’s name appeared more and more frequently in articles about Swallow and Shurtleff. In particular, a City Weekly story titled “Six Degrees Of “Fixer” Tim Lawson To Utah’s Attorneys General” examined Lawson’s connections to Swallow and Shurtleff.
Lawson (pictured), a longtime friend of Shurtleff’s, has capitalized on the friendship to get troubled companies and businesses access to Shurtleff and others. Lawson told City Weekly in an interview in April about some of his clients. “I introduced Swallow and Shurtleff to all these guys … Jeremy Johnson, Marc Jenson and Mark Robbins—all those people,” Lawson said. “Those are my friends or business associates. They all met [Shurtleff and Swallow] through me and I was never in any meeting where John Swallow was taking bribes or any of that BS.”
When interviewed in April 2013, Lawson denied his connections ever exercised undue influence and was critical of those who blamed his work as a “fixer” in recent scandals that have rocked the Attorney General’s Office.
“I’ve had people from [the Attorney General’s] office call me and tell me this is my fault,” Lawson says. “I said to them, ‘You know what — how do I put this politically correct? — go screw yourself.‘”
The City Weekly piece then proceeds to detail connections to
- Mark Robbins,
- Pre-Paid Legal (implicated in an alleged scheme to puff sales of Shurtleff’s book),
- Mentoring of America (which lost a $450 million judgment to the FTC in 2012 for “deceptive sales practices that affected more than a million consumers”),
- Jeremy Johnson (“indicted by the FTC in 2011 for allegedly defrauding thousands of consumers out of $275 million”),
- Marc Jenson (who paid Lawson as much as “$200,000 to help him in a securities-fraud case that started in 2005″)
- Brian Kitts (who “says that Lawson extorted money from him and said that the money needed to go to certain people, including Shurtleff”)
In regards to an allegation that Lawson threatened to have Kitts thrown in jail, ““I don’t recall. To be honest with you, I actually do have a medical condition, neurological, that I don’t remember things from one day to the next sometimes.”
Sounds like exactly the kind of guy we want as a replacement for Bell. A guy with connections to questionable businesses and indicted businessmen who has no qualms about using his connections to try to throw people in jail.
Because, hey: he can’t remember things from one day to the next sometimes. (This doesn’t even start on the allegations that Utah Political Capitol dug up on Lawson. I’m not going to touch that one.)
“Everyone has talked about how I’m the spawn of Satan or the meanest son-of-a-bitch this side of hell, but there is no question I’d be a huge advocate for the state and the people,” Lawson says. “I’m not the politically correct choice, but I’m definitely a very powerful individual in Utah and could do a lot to protect the citizens here.”
Meanwhile, because maybe he thinks it’ll help his chances, Lawson says he’s preparing a $50 million lawsuit against the state to force it to prepare gluten-free lunch options to schoolchildren.
You can’t make this stuff up.
(h/t to Eric Peterson at the City Weekly for this weeks weird, wild, and, according to Robert Gehrke, true story)
- Bidding farewell to Utah’s Lt. Governor, Greg Bell (hollyonthehill.com)
- Swallow’s behavior raises concerns about ethics (danforutah.com)
- Lt. Governor Greg Bell to resign (fox13now.com)
- The Full Story: How Shurtleff and Swallow Allegedly Shook Down Marc Jenson (freewestradio.com)
- A Clear Majority of Utah Voters Want the Legislature to Impeach Swallow (utahdatapoints.com)
- Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell quits to fulfill family’s ‘financial needs’ (ksl.com)