Shurtleff, Swallow say outside consulting OK
Utah Attorney General John Swallow said he complied with Utah law when he was paid by Richard Rawle for consulting work on a Nevada limestone quarry, and that the money he received was unrelated to any deal Jeremy Johnson cut with Rawle to try to avoid a federal probe into Johnson's troubled businesses.
To back his claim, Swallow released a statement Friday from his boss at the time, former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
"From what I have learned about John Swallow's out-of-state consulting arrangement with Richard Rawle, I believe John has complied with the policy as I have enforced it during my administration," Shurtleff said in a statement.
Swallow's side deal with Rawle was exempt from approval and disclosure rules that apply to career attorneys because, as chief deputy, Swallow was a political appointee, Shurtleff said.
Shurtleff has not previously answered questions about Johnson's claim that Swallow helped arrange a $600,000 payment to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to derail a Federal Trade Commission investigation. The allegations against Shurtleff's hand-picked successor by one of the former attorney general's biggest donors broke one week ago.
Swallow's consulting company, P-Solutions, was paid $23,500 for participating in several meetings and lining up two attorneys for Chaparral Limestone & Cement Co., where Rawle was a partner before he died last month, according to Allen Young, another partner in the company.
Young said the payments were arranged between Rawle and Swallow, and he thought they were fair for an estimated 100 hours of work he did.
The consulting fees come on top of the nearly $210,000 in salary and benefits Swallow received as chief deputy attorney general.
The consulting payments were not disclosed on Swallow's campaign filing and he removed himself from the management of the company on the same day he filed to run for attorney general in 2012. His wife remains listed as the only manager of the company, although he did not disclose her interest in the company, either.
"At the time of filing for office he was neither a manager nor owner and did not believe it necessary to list this on his disclosures," according to a statement from the Attorney General's Office.
The statement notes that Swallow disclosed the consulting work voluntarily, although that disclosure came after it was reported in The Tribune.
Swallow also acknowledged Friday that he spent a day in the summer of 2010 on Johnson's opulent houseboat on Lake Powell, a million-dollar, 76-foot-long floating mansion that spans 5,200 square feet and includes a helipad. The government seized Johnson's boat and allowed it to be repossessed and put up for sale.
"At the time I considered Mr. Johnson a friend and I did not view spending one day on a friend's boat as a gift," Swallow said. "Especially since we brought our own equipment including wave runners and paid for our own food, fuel and other necessities."
A separate statement released Friday by a law firm representing Rawle's family also identifies for the first time two firms Timothy R. Rupli & Associates and Brown, Brown & Premsrirut that were each paid a $50,000 retainer as a part of a lobbying deal that Swallow and Rawle's lawyers say was struck to help Johnson with his FTC case.
Rupli has done considerable work for the payday loan industry over the years. Brown, Brown & Premsrirut, a Las Vegas law firm, does not have any registered federal lobbyists.
Neither firm did any lobbying work on Johnson's behalf, because they were still doing "due diligence" on Johnson and I Works when the FTC filed its lawsuit against the company, 20 days after they were retained, according to the statement from the Rawle family's attorney, Samuel Alba.
Swallow contacted Rawle to arrange an October 2010 meeting with Johnson, who told Rawle he was facing a suit by the FTC and he needed help making his case to the agency, hoping Rawle could use his experience in working on government relations issues for the payday loan industry to connect him with experts, Alba's statement said.
Johnson agreed to an initial payment of $250,000, which was made on Dec. 2, 2010. Swallow was not present at the meeting.
After the lawsuit was filed, Johnson and his business partner, Scott Leavitt, who had put up $200,000 of the money, sought a refund. Leavitt was refunded $100,000, on the condition he sign an affidavit that says the money was for lobbying, which contradicts Johnson's assertion it was a bribe.
"Specious accusations by Jeremy Johnson against Richard Rawle are nothing more than a 'last ditch effort' to try and influence the current ongoing federal prosecution" of Johnson, Alba's statement said.
Johnson has been charged with fraud and money laundering and was expected to agree to a plea deal last week where he agreed to a 135-month prison sentence in exchange for immunity for his family and business colleagues. But the deal fell apart at the last minute when prosecutors balked at including Swallow's name on the list of those exempt from prosecution a list Swallow said he never asked to be on.
Rawle died last month after a long battle with cancer.