A senior Utah senator said he was told last year by representatives of a major Utah alarm provider that the company gave money to John Swallow’s attorney general campaign so he would know the business if it ever became the subject of consumer complaints.
But an attorney for the Provo company, Vivint Inc., says it is unfair for anyone to suggest there was any quid pro quo for the contributions and that it never sought or received special treatment from the attorney general.
"Not only have we not done it, we would not do it," said attorney Nathan Wilcox. "I don’t think you can imply that just because someone makes a political contribution that they’re seeking a favor from that person."
Jason Powers, a spokesman for the Swallow campaign, said no donor ever received special treatment from the attorney general’s office.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said he was a guest last August at the Wasatch Shotgun Blast, an annual fundraiser started by former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and taken over by Swallow, his handpicked successor, when he met several executives from Vivint, a company in his district.
Bramble said he asked them why they were supporting Swallow and recalls that they told him it was good for the attorney general to know their company in case there were complaints against their business.
"The exchange was along the lines of: If you have an issue with state laws, why not bring it to the Legislature? And, at that point, they said, ‘Look we don’t have any use for the Legislature. If we have an issue, it’s important to have a good relationship with the attorney general.’ "
Wilcox said it is important to maintain a good relationship with any public official and has invited Bramble to tour Vivint’s facilities. But in Utah, he noted, it is the Division of Consumer Protection, not the attorney general, that handles consumer complaints.
Early last year, Swallow was recorded in a conversation saying that, after he was elected, he wanted to move the Division of Consumer Protection into the attorney general’s office, but the idea met with resistance.
Vivint, Wilcox and other top company executives contributed more than $50,000 to Swallow’s election bid. They had kicked in $70,000 previously to Shurtleff’s campaign.
Through the years, Vivint, formally known as APEX Alarm and APX Alarm Security Solutions, had been under investigation in several states for pitches made by its door-to-door sales force.
It has agreed to pay fines, attorney fees and issue refunds as part of consent decrees with attorneys general in Wisconsin, Arkansas, Kansas, Ohio, Nebraska and a county attorney in California. As part of the settlements, the company agreed to change its sales practices. Action has not been taken against the company in Utah.
Wilcox said the agreements were made in the interest of doing what is best for the customers and assuring the attorneys general the company would be compliant.
Earlier this year, three Utah businessmen told The Salt Lake Tribune that Swallow, when he was raising money for Shurtleff in 2009, suggested it is in their best interest to make contributions so the attorney general would know who they were and how they operated in case there were complaints against their companies.
Swallow and Shurtleff both raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies in industries that regularly had run-ins with consumer protection officials, but both have said donors never received any special treatment from the attorney general’s office.
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