Another chapter in Shurtleff’s book peddling: The deal that fell through
Scandal • Publisher says A.G. donor had agreed to buy 100,000 copies, but backed out.
Published: June 2, 2013 05:01PM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:32PM
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Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Mark Shurtleff reminisces over his 12-year career as Utah attorney general as a moving crew packs up his office Thursday. The outgoing attorney general, a former Salt Lake County commissioner, is going into private practice after many years.

A political supporter and campaign contributor to Mark Shurtleff agreed to order tens of thousands of copies of his book before it was done, a deal that would have netted six figures for Utah’s then attorney general, according to the publisher.

The deal, which ultimately fizzled, was made at a time that another man, Marc Sessions Jenson, who is in prison for securities violations, said Shurtleff asked him to buy thousands of copies of the book as well.

Shurtleff said he never made money from his book and Jenson is lying about any supposed deal.

“I never made any royalties off my book,” Shurtleff said. “Candace Salima paid herself and staff, not me. All other Jenson lies about pre-sales are false.”

Salima was an author considering opening her own publishing company when she said she was approached by Tim Lawson, a confidant and self-described “fixer” for Shurtleff, asking if she would be interested in publishing Shurtleff’s book, Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story.

Part of the deal, she said, was that Pre-Paid Legal Services — which used multilevel marketing to sell legal services and had contributed more than $130,000 to Shurtleff through the years — had committed to buying 100,000 copies of the book.

The company was sold in 2011 and now operates as LegalShield.

The book deal, had it gone through, would have meant more than $1 million for Salima’s publishing company, Valor Publishing.

She firmed up the details with Shurtleff, and they signed a contract with Pre-Paid Legal Services. Salima recalls she was going to sell the books at half price — $12.50 a copy — and Shurtleff would receive about a 10 percent royalty, meaning roughly $125,000 for the attorney general.

But the deal derailed, she said, after Shurtleff announced he was running for U.S. Senate against then-Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah. Salima said the Bennett campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging the deal was a way to funnel money to Shurtleff’s campaign.

“That was blatantly false because he took 10 years to write this book,” she said. “He wrote the book, my company contracted the right to print it and distribute it and there was a customer — granted a large customer — who was paying to order it.”

Jim Bennett, the senator’s son and campaign manager, said the campaign knew Shurtleff had a book agreement, “but we didn’t know of any deal to do a Jim Wright ‘buy-my-books-and-give-me-money’ sort of thing.”

Bennett was referring to the former U.S. House speaker who resigned in 1989 after it came to light that political supporters had made bulk purchases of a book he had written.

“We never filed an FEC complaint against Mark,” Bennett said. “We threatened to on a number of topics, but we never did.”

Nonetheless, Salima said, Pre-Paid Legal Services got spooked and backed out.

Only the first 10,000 copies were printed. Pre-Paid still bought 6,000 of them, she said. Another 2,500 were sold at stores around the country and Shurtleff bought the remaining 1,500, Salima said.

The setback crippled her company, which she struggled to keep afloat but eventually closed a few years later.

“It was nothing untoward. It was nothing illegal,” she said. “It made no sense to me that they got scared over a simple business transaction.”

Another run of the book was printed in 2011 by Sortis Publishing.

Jenson, who is serving up to 10 years in prison for selling unregistered securities, said Shurtleff wrote chunks of the book while staying at his villa in Newport Beach, Calif., at Jenson’s expense.

At the time, Jenson was free on a plea deal arranged with Shurtleff’s office that was later revoked after Jenson failed to make restitution payments.

Jenson said while Shurt­leff was at the villa, the attorney general asked him to buy $250,000 worth of the book — for which Shurtleff would receive royalties — and assured Jenson he never had to take delivery of the copies. Jenson said he declined the deal.

Salima said there were no other large buyers of Shurt­leff’s book and nobody ever suggested that the books would not be delivered to Pre-Paid Legal. She said the company planned to distribute them to its marketing representatives.

Shurtleff also pitched his book during a 2009 appearance before The Green Tea Co., a Lehi-based multilevel-marketing operation recently fined by the state.

gehrke@sltrib.com