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Swallow tales: Report says A.G. has big credibility gap

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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attorney General John Swallow, left, is sworn in by Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant as his wife, Suzanne, holds the bible during inauguration ceremnoy at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah Monday January 7, 2013.

By dan harrie

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Nov 22 2013 07:20PM
Updated Nov 25, 2013 09:43AM

Investigators looking into allegations of campaign-disclosure violations against Attorney General John Swallow paint a picture of a man whose bright and earnest demeanor seems at war with the tangle of far-fetched and shifting answers he gives trying to explain away questionable actions.

On point after point, the attorneys burrowing into Swallow’s financial transactions found a gap between his recollections and statements — many of them given under oath — with other evidence or testimony.

"When we met him, Swallow appeared genuine and cooperative," investigators wrote. "He was professional, courteous and articulate. He was well prepared and had explanations for almost all of the difficult areas of inquiry."

They noted that a reasonable person could find his version of events "convincing."

Investigators, though, did not.

"There are numerous inconsistencies between Swallow’s testimony and other evidence," the report said, "as well as apparent implausible explanations that raise questions and suspicions about his credibility."

Here are some of those documented in the report:

• Swallow has often said — and told investigators — that he played no ongoing role in the lobbying effort to help fend off a Federal Trade Commission investigation of Jeremy Johnson and his I Works company. But the report cited evidence Swallow was involved at least as late as December 2010, less than two weeks before the FTC filed its complaint against I Works.

• Swallow has maintained publicly that the $23,500 he received from payday-loan entrepreneur Richard Rawle was for consulting work on a Nevada cement project — not for anything to do with the FTC lobbying deal between Johnson and Rawle. He told investigators that Rawle wanted to pay him for introducing Johnson to him, but Swallow refused. Swallow said he instead told Rawle he would take money for consulting work on the Nevada project.

• Swallow said his consulting work with Rawle on the Nevada project ended by late 2011. Investigators uncovered an email from Swallow to Rawle showing he was actively working on the project as late as June of 2012.

• Swallow said he lost a debit card in spring 2011 and couldn’t access the account, which still had some money in it. He cited the card loss as an explanation for why there was a discrepancy between gold-coin purchase payments from Rawle totaling $17,000 and the $15,600 Swallow reported on tax returns. Records subpoenaed from the debit-card company show Swallow, or someone else, used his account months after he said he was locked out.

• Swallow said he had withdrawn as manager of the companies SSV Management and P-Solutions on March 8 or 9, 2012 — before he filed a personal financial disclosure with the state omitting any mention of the companies. State records show his withdrawal occurred March 15, 2012, after he filed his first disclosure and the same day he filed a second one.

• Swallow said he withdrew as manager of the companies not because of any concern about a possible investigation of them, but because he "wanted to send a message to the public" that he was done with other business activities and wanted to be "the attorney general a hundred percent of my time for the public if I won [the election]." That was in stark contrast to testimony from his estate attorney, Lee McCullough, who said he made the change because Swallow didn’t want the companies to be used as fodder against him in the campaign.

• Swallow told investigators his refund of Rawle’s $23,500 and his request to have it paid back to his P-Solutions from a different account not associated with the Johnson lobbying deal — along with Swallow’s retroactive creation of invoices for the Nevada project consulting — were all about appearances. "The optics of the allegation that I had been involved in a bribery involving a senator [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] was something that would be very hard to overcome … ," he said. "That’s really what that whole thing was about was trying to make it right, optically at least."

• Swallow said before he filed his first financial disclosure on March 9 he stepped outside the lieutenant governor’s office to have a detailed phone conversation with his attorney about what had to be reported and what companies and income could be left off. Based on that 15- to 20-minute conversation, he said, he did not list the companies and income sources the report said were violations. McCullough did not remember any such call, though he said there was a separate in-person meeting about the disclosures.

• In an interview last January with KUTV, Swallow said that a deathbed affidavit obtained from Rawle, confirming that Swallow was not involved in the Johnson-FTC lobbying effort, was initiated by Rawle and prepared by "his people." But Rawle associate Cort Walker, in an email included in the report, said the affidavit was prepared by Swallow and his attorney. "I cannot back up Swallow’s statement," Walker wrote in the email. Swallow himself told investigators that he prepared some notes and gave them to his lawyer, who then prepared a draft affidavit to Walker for Rawle to amend and sign.

• Swallow said within a few days of filing his first disclosure form on March 9, 2012, and before filing a second one a week later, he met with Assistant Attorney General Thom Roberts, the office’s expert on election law, about what he could and could not leave out of the report. Roberts could recall no such meeting until January 2013, after the Swallow scandal broke

• Swallow has insisted all along — including up through his resignation news conference Thursday — that he had fully cooperated with all investigations into his activities. Investigators called his cooperation "very inconsistent," said "many requests for documents went unanswered" and referred to repeated delays in complying with a subpoena to have Swallow’s wife give a deposition — which never was completed.

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