Editorial: Shurtleff and Swallow will have their day in court
Shurtleff, Swallow will face justice.
Published: July 15, 2014 01:20PM
Updated: July 15, 2014 04:58PM

The gears of justice sometimes grind slowly.

In Utah Tuesday, those gears finally meshed in a way that promises to bring months of investigations — and, allegedly, years of misdeeds at high levels of our government — to resolution.

Both those accused and their alleged victims — which, in this case, would be all the people of the state — can now look forward to a day in court when all the truth can finally come out.

Former Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow were arrested and charged with a total of 23 criminal counts of bribery, evidence tampering, witness tampering and lying to investigators. It was, according to the damning list of charges and specifications released Tuesday, a “pattern of unlawful activity.”

Little in the charges, brought by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County District Attorney Troy Rawlings, will be unfamiliar to those who have been following reports from The Salt Lake Tribune and previous probes conducted by the Utah lieutenant governor’s office and a special House committee.

Shurtleff and Swallow continue to deny all the charges.

But laid out in spare legalese, the charges draw a sickening picture of an out-of-control attorney general’s office where the unseemly pay-to-play culture dates back to at least 2009.

Shurtleff and Swallow stand accused of abusing their public trust by leveraging their official positions to extract large campaign contributions and personal favors for themselves and for other contributors.

The charges, if true, outline the two officials’ habit of alternately doing favors for, or shaking down, business operators who were, might have been or should have been under criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office and other prosecutors.

But instead of keeping their distance and showing some respect for their positions of public trust, Shurtleff and Swallow allegedly spent years mucking about in a swamp of shady business dealings, unreported campaign contributions, legal opinions that favored their donors and interfering with the proper actions of the attorney general’s professional staff in ways that assisted wrongdoers and harmed their victims.

The glass-half-full way of looking at all of this is to note that, once the stink finally rose to public awareness, a state establishment dominated by Shurtleff and Swallow’s fellow Republicans launched multiple investigations into the charges. Even when the U.S. Department of Justice dropped the case, the local prosecutors — and the local office of the FBI — stuck with it.

The glass-half-empty view, though, is that even after spending so much of their time and our money on a no-holds-barred probe, lawmakers still refuse to do anything to put limits on campaign contributions, the root of all evil in this and so many other government scandals.

As these cases proceed to trial, and the accused are given a full opportunity to present evidence in their own defense, the people and the political establishment will have a full airing of just what has been going on under our noses all this time.

And our leaders may finally take some solid, permanent action that does not merely single out a couple of the disgraceful examples, but finally takes official note of how money taints politics.