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House targets Swallow's money trail in 9 new subpoenas

Published November 9, 2013 5:01 pm

Nine new subpoenas target the PACs and consultants that fueled his 2012 campaign.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

House investigators are targeting Utah Attorney General John Swallow's campaign cash, issuing nine new subpoenas Friday, primarily for documents related to the network of consultants and political action committees that fueled his 2012 run for office.

The demands for records are extensive, focusing on campaign consultant Jason Powers, his business Guidant Strategies, and a series of PACs and nonprofit political organizations that he controls.

The barrage of new subpoenas comes a day after Swallow criticized the bipartisan House committee investigating him. The first-term Republican attorney general accused investigators of going to great lengths to dig up any hint of wrongdoing to justify the projected $3 million in taxpayer money the inquiry is expected to cost.

Powers is a well-connected political consultant who has worked for Swallow and his GOP predecessor, Mark Shurtleff. Powers also has worked on campaigns for numerous other Utah Republicans, including Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch along with several state legislators.

The committee is demanding correspondence between Powers and Swallow, as well as financial records and communications between Swallow and several Powers-run entities, including:

•Â The Protect Utah PAC and Utah's Prosperity Foundation, a PAC for Shurtleff.

• The Proper Role of Government Education Association, a nonprofit that was able to take money from undisclosed donors and put it into other Powers-run nonprofits, the Proper Role of Government Defense Fund and the Proper Role of Government Action Fund.

Guidant Strategies, Powers' consulting business.

Powers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Swallow raised more than $1.3 million for his 2012 campaign — much of it channeled through the Shurtleff PAC — and spent more than $1.1 million on a race that he won by 34 percentage points. A Salt Lake Tribune analysis of Swallow's donors found that, aside from the Republican Party dollars, nearly 83 percent of his money came from telemarketers, multilevel marketers, coaching companies, alarm companies, payday lenders and other industries that are frequent targets of state regulators.

The committee also is seeking additional records from the Utah attorney general's office, including Swallow's travel records and correspondence from Swallow's missing electronic records.

The committee has been trying to gain access to copies of hard drives and servers in the office to try to recover files that are missing from Swallow's email account, his electronic calendar and his state-issued desktop and laptop computers.

The deadline to comply with the new subpoenas is Nov. 25.

The committee, with its five Republicans and four Democrats, had previously issued subpoenas to Swallow, the attorney general's office and Swallow's former employer, Softwise Inc., which develops software for the payday-lending industry.

Swallow had been an attorney and lobbyist for the Provo-based company. On Thursday, Softwise filed a motion in court to quash the subpoena, arguing it was a "fishing expedition" and that the committee was overstepping its legal authority.

Softwise had refused to comply with the House subpoena and the committee authorized attorneys to take "any and all" measures to enforce compliance.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Robert Gehrke