Q&A: Utah A.G. John Swallow responds to Johnson's allegations
The following are the full responses to two sets of questions posed via e-mail to Utah Attorney General John Swallow regarding Jeremy Johnson's allegations that Swallow helped broker a deal to make his problems with federal regulators disappear. The exchanges have been modified to identify the question and Swallow's response.
Swallow • I have been reliably advised Jeremy Johnson is making false and defamatory allegations about me. We are not sure of his motivation but it appears they may be tied to those who have political motives. Any suggestion by Mr. Johnson that I have been involved in illegal or inappropriate activity regarding his FTC case or any other matter is false and defamatory. He has apparently peddled his story to a number of people, none of whom have taken the allegations seriously. To do otherwise would perpetuate libelous material.
Tribune • Did you arrange for Jeremy Johnson to pay money to try to resolve his problems with the FTC or other federal regulators or law enforcement?
Swallow • No. Jeremy asked me if I knew any lobbyists that could help him with a issues with the FTC. I told him no but that I had a former client and friend who had good contacts with Congressional lobbyists and that I could introduce this former client to him, if he wanted. At this point in time no action had been filed by the FTC and this was long before any criminal charges were filed by the US Government. I told Jeremy I could not and would not intervene with the FTC on his behalf, given my position with the State AG. Mr. Johnson and some of his associates met with my former client and his associates and independently of me worked out an agreement to which I was not a party.
Tribune • If so, what was the arrangement? How much was paid? To whom? What was the purpose? How was the money spent?
Swallow • What I know about the arrangement has come second hand. I cannot provide definitive details of the arrangement. I do not know how the monies were spent. My understanding was that Johnson wanted to engage some federal relations experts to lawfully and appropriately assist him in communicating his position to key people at the FTC with the hopes of resolving differences or reaching a settlement with the FTC.
Tribune • Did you receive any compensation or payment for arranging the deal?
Swallow • I did not arrange the deal. I referred Jeremy to a former client and friend who I thought might have good contacts and they worked out the arrangement independent of me. I was not compensated or paid any monies for facilitating the contact for Johnson.
Tribune • Have you otherwise been compensated or received money from anyone outside of the attorney general's office since you became chief deputy? If so, by whom, how much and for what purpose?
Swallow • Nothing out of the ordinary. I have received family gifts and money from investments. I have sold assets. I have refinanced a mortgage on my house. I consulted on an out of state, business project consistent with state laws and regulations for which money was paid. I have reported everything that has been required to be reported under the law.
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.
Tribune • Have you met with the FBI this year? If so, what was the interview about? If not, have you otherwise been notified that you are under investigation? Have you hired an attorney?
Swallow • I have not met with the FBI this year nor have I been contacted or notified that I am under investigation. I have retained an attorney to investigate and deal with, as necessary, the false and libelous allegations I am hearing that Jeremy Johnson has been making about me and others. It appears these rumors are being spread maliciously and perhaps for political reasons. No one is above the law and any elected official should be willing [to] have authorities and the press ask questions when someone credible raises an issue. If contacted I will cooperate fully and respond to any questions. However, I do not anticipate being contacted.
I can say this emphatically: I have never had a financial arrangement with Mr. Johnson and no money has ever been offered or solicited. I would appreciate it if you would be very careful about this story. Thank you for the questions.
Swallow • Preliminarily, let me restate that I am puzzled by Mr. Johnson. He is extremely intelligent and appears to have a well-conceived plan to divert attention from his problems and draw attention to someone else. I am equally puzzled by your interested [sic] and inquiry, but I am happy to respond to your questions.
Tribune • In your earlier responses you said that you referred Jeremy to a former client. Was that client Richard Rawle? Did you attend any meetings with Richard and Jeremy?
Swallow • Yes it was Richard Rawle. I don't recall ever being in a meeting with Jeremy and Richard at the same time. I am not sure if you know that Richard passed away last month from cancer.
Tribune • Did you arrange meetings between Jeremy and any other elected officials? If so, who were they? What was the nature of those meetings?
Swallow • I did attend one meeting several months before any complaint had been filed against Jeremy by the FTC and long before any criminal charges were filed by the federal government. In that meeting Mr. Johnson told Mark Shurtleff, Sen. Orrin Hatch and me that he was being treated unfairly by the FTC.
Tribune • In your earlier responses, you mentioned a meeting in March or April with Jeremy where he suggested that you quit the race. Where was that meeting? Was it separate from an April meeting at Krispy Kreme? What is your recollection of the Krispy Kreme meeting?
Swallow • My reference was to that meeting. Mr. Johnson asked me to meet with him for a few minutes and I was in Orem campaigning at the time so we met at the doughnut shop. I believe that his primary purpose was to encourage me to encourage Mr. Rawle to refund a portion of the lobby money to him.
Tribune • In your earlier responses, you mentioned that you were paid for consulting work done in compliance with Utah law. Was that consulting work done for Richard Rawle? What was the nature of the consulting work?
Swallow • Yes. I did non-law related consulting and market research on a Nevada limestone project.
Tribune • Did you arrange to pay Johnson $75,000 on Dec. 3 through funds deposited into an escrow account? What was the purpose of that payment?
Swallow • No. It's my understanding that Mr. Rawle paid a partial refund on his lobby agreement. It was negotiated between counsel and as I understand it was paid to one of Mr. Johnson's former officers or employees who put up some of the money for the lobby agreement.
Tribune • Since we posed our previous questions to you, have you been interviewed by the FBI? If so, what was the purpose of the meeting? Have you met with anyone from the U.S. Attorney's Office about this matter? If so, what was the nature of those discussions? Was there a specific deal proffered by the U.S. Attorney's Office?
Swallow • No, no and no. I have not been contacted. You might want to be concerned that Mr. Johnson is manipulating you.
Tribune • You mentioned you had hired an attorney to deal with this matter. Do you still have the same attorney? If so, who is it and what has he or she done regarding the allegations?
Swallow • Yes. I have hired the law firm of Clyde Snow and Sessions, which I retained in June in response to the Reyes law suit. They are working hard on a defamation case against those who are defaming me. Your questions indicate that false and defamatory statements are still being made about me.