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Officials wish they knew Swallow allegations before election

Published February 12, 2013 8:25 pm

Utah • House speaker says voters should have had more information before casting ballots.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

State leaders said Tuesday that the public could have known more about the allegations of impropriety against Attorney General John Swallow before the election.

Their comments come in response to news that former Attorney General Mark Shurt­leff said that he met on several occasions with federal prosecutors after he learned that Swallow had helped Utah businessman and Shurtleff donor Jeremy Johnson, who was under investigation by federal regulators.

Shurtleff didn't share the information publicly. Gov. Gary Herbert said that is a decision for Shurtleff to have made.

"Could it have been done better?" Herbert asked. "In hindsight, probably yes."

Herbert reiterated that he wants to avoid a rush to judgment, however, and that Swallow is entitled to due process.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said the more information about candidates, the better equipped voters are to make a decision, and she wishes the information involving Swallow would have been known before the election. If it had been known, she said, it could have made a difference in her vote.

"Attorney General Shurt­leff is going to have to answer those questions," she said, "and he's going to be accountable for those actions and why or why not he didn't disclose that."

Shurtleff said in a message Tuesday that, at the time he learned of the allegations in late October, they were just that, allegations. But he believed federal authorities should look into the matter further.

Swallow says he merely helped connect Johnson with a friend — the late owner of the Provo-based Check City payday-loan chain, Richard Rawle — whom Johnson paid $250,000 to hire two lobbyists. Johnson has said the payment was the first installment on a $600,000 arrangement aimed at enlisting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to intervene on Johnson's behalf with the Federal Trade Commission — an effort Johnson has characterized, at times, as a bribe.

Reid's office has denied any knowledge of Johnson's case. The U.S. attorney's office has confirmed it is investigating.

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