September 1, 2014

Why didn’t Shurtleff tell voters what he knew about Swallow before the election?

220px-Mark_ShurtleffIn the days before the general election in 2012, Mark Shurtleff was putting out fires around town. His protege, John Swallow, was on track to win the election against Democrat Dee Smith, as Shurtleff and Swallow had long-planned, but cracks were appearing in the otherwise flawless campaign strategy. Shurtleff, his legacy on the line in the successful transfer to his protegé, was busy meeting with indicted businessmen, the feds, and Swallow himself.

As Shurtleff later described, he was “upset” by the allegations, enough so that he took them to the U.S. Attorney and the FBI.  Was Swallow promising protection from prosecution in return for campaign contributions? Was Swallow embroiled in a scheme to bribe Nevada Senator Harry Reid?

The more information that trickles out, the more questions seem to be raised. This week, in addition to more accusations against Swallow, Shurtleff admitted on Monday said that he knew as early as October, but somehow failed to tell the public, the press, or even to suggest to Swallow that he should pull out of the race.


When and what did Shurtleff know? Who did he tell?

According to Swallow, Shurtleff never asked him to pull out of the race, despite a report that Shurtleff said he would speak to Swallow about it.

In a January 11, 2013 article, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Jeremy Johnson met with then Utah Attorney General Shurtleff on October 30, 2012.  The general election was just days away, and Swallow was leading in the polls.

The two (Shurtleff and Johnson) met the next day outside a Salt Lake City Gateway condo, where Johnson was staying, Johnson said. He told Shurtleff about Swallow’s deal and that the information would come out soon. He urged Shurtleff to press Swallow to drop out. Shurtleff said it was unlikely Swallow would quit at that late date, according to Johnson, but Shurtleff agreed to speak to Swallow about the allegations.

Swallow said Shurtleff didn’t talk to him about getting out of the race.

SwallowSwallow told the Salt Lake Tribune that he had never discussed getting out of the race with Shurtleff.

Tribune: Did you have a meeting with Jeremy at the end of October where he encouraged you to drop out of the attorney general’s race? If so, where was it? What was the nature and outcome of the meeting? Did Mark discuss the issue with you? Did you consider dropping out?

Swallow: No, I did not have a meeting with Mr. Johnson in October or November. Mark Shurtleff has never discussed my dropping out of the race with me and I never considered dropping out of the race. In April or May, I believe, I had a conversation with Jeremy where he may have suggested I drop out of the race. I thought the remark was ridiculous and did not give it any consideration.

Reading the Swallow’s words carefully, it seems clear that he knew that Shurtleff had met with Johnson and likely the substance of their conversation, but that Shurtleff had not discussed the possibility that Swallow would pull out of the race for his behavior.

Meanwhile, Shurtleff was having other conversations, including with feds at the US Attorney’s office. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Shurtleff said that

“Obviously, I’m very upset by [the allegations against Swallow]. I was upset enough to go down and talk to the U.S. attorney and the FBI on a couple of occasions,” Shurtleff said in an interview. “This is my friend, my chief deputy. Am I [feeling] somewhat guilty? Am I betraying him? But I felt that the proper authorities needed to know.”

Given the proximity to the general election, one cannot help but wonder if the “proper authorities” should have included the voters of Utah. If Shurtleff was “upset,” why not let the public know? Surely his duty as an officer of the court requires that he put the judging authority–in this case the public–on notice that a candidate for public office was then, or would be soon, under investigation by the FBI for corruption.


 

Game Changing Information

That Shurtleff knew about Swallow’s accusers before the election and told no one but the feds and Swallow is no small act of subterfuge. At least one public official–Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives Becky Lockhart–told the Salt Lake Tribune that knowing would have changed her vote.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said the more information about candidates, the better equipped voters are to make a decision, and she wishes the information involving Swallow would have been known before the election. If it had been known, she said, it could have made a difference in her vote.

Attorney General Shurt­leff is going to have to answer those questions,” she said, “and he’s going to be accountable for those actions and why or why not he didn’t disclose that.”

Will Shurtleff be held accountable? Time only will show. On Monday, Shurtleff expressed hope that the investigation would wrap up soon so that people could move on. Given the extent of the charges and that more accusers continue to come forward, that seems less and less likely.  At best, it seems almost like wishful thinking.

Bagley cartoon  Attorney General Spoiler Alert   The Salt Lake Tribune

About Daniel Burton

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. You can follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas. He is active on social media, Republican politics, and has been named to PoliticIt’s list of the “Top-50 Utah Political Opinion Leaders” on Twitter. You can reach him directly at dan.burton@gmail.com

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