McEntee: Swallow should do what’s best — and bow out
Column • Utah needs an attorney general unsullied from scandal.

By peg mcentee

Tribune Columnist

Published: January 16, 2013 09:57PM
Updated: May 5, 2013 11:32PM
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Peg McEntee

It’s time for John Swallow to cut his losses and go.

The baggage is piling up. Demands for answers are growing louder. And the feds have Utah’s new attorney general in their sights.

The under-indictment businessman Jeremy Johnson, not an entirely solid witness, alleges Swallow helped arrange a bribe in 2010 in an effort to buy a U.S. senator’s influence in derailing a federal investigation into Johnson’s business dealings. Swallow denies that.

There also was an intriguing meeting at a doughnut shop, fishy emails and Swallow’s transfer of his company to his wife the day he filed to run for attorney general. He also did not disclose payments from a now-dead man he introduced to Johnson.

As attorney general, Swallow should be protecting the public’s best interest and its tax dollars. But he supports the Legislature’s campaign to force the United States to cede 30 million acres of federal public land in Utah to the state — despite its fatal flaws and the millions of dollars it would cost in court.

This is a man who gathered more than $1 million in campaign donations, including $250,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee, which wants attorneys general nationwide to fight “the federal government’s overreach.”

According to the Utah Constitution, the attorney general “shall be the legal adviser of the state officers, except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, and shall perform other duties as required by law.”

One would think those state officers would want sound guidance from a “legal adviser” unsullied by politics, dogma and any hint of scandal.

The Utah Democratic Party has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for an investigation, and the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah wants the Utah State Bar to do the same. If it does not, the alliance plans to file a formal request for a probe.

Republicans Enid Greene Mickelsen, a former congresswoman, and Holly Richardson, a former legislator, also have called for inquiries.

Swallow has, of course, denied any misdeeds. But the damage to the reputation of the Attorney General’s Office — and its dedicated attorneys and staff — cannot be ignored.

This type of mess can take months, if not years, to sort out. Utahns deserve an attorney general who is able to perform his or her duties without the odor of even a possible scandal.

Swallow would do himself and the state a huge favor by walking away and letting someone without baggage do the job.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her atpegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.