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John Swallow takes his place in Utah scandal history

Published November 22, 2013 12:13 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

John Swallow on Thursday became the latest entry in the list of more than a dozen Utah politicians engulfed in scandal through the years that either prematurely ended or forever tainted their public service.

While it's true that Salt Lake City may not be notorious for the kind of chronic corruption associated with Chicago or Washington, D.C., it can hold its own in the scandal annals, with some cases making national news or — as in the case of the 2002 Winter Olympics bribery controversy — international headlines.

It was, in fact, a popular national TV program that triggered the unraveling of one prominent Utah pol. U.S. Congressman Doug Stringfellow won election based on his fabricated tales of heroics during World War II, including a behind-enemy-lines mission to capture German atomic scientist Otto Hahn. The fabric of lies, retold on the biography program "This Is Your Life," hastened his exposure and resignation in 1954.

That followed, by a half century, a scandal in which Utah's first U.S. senator, Arthur Brown, is remembered not for any feat of oratory or landmark legislation but for being gunned down in 1906 after his retirement by his longtime mistress.

By contrast, a much more recent scandal-bit politician, Utah House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, went out in spectacular fashion with his admission on the House floor in 2010 that 25 years earlier he had hot-tubbed naked with a minor girl who worked for him and whom he later paid $150,000 as part of an agreement to conceal the incident. He resigned within days and the then-House speaker, who led members in a standing ovation for his confession, was a few months later defeated in his bid for a second term as the chamber's leader.

A full catalog of Utah's top political sandals can be found here. (Click on each individual scandal article to pull up a summary.)