Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Jeremy Johnson and his wife, Sharla, smile and say that they can't say anything to the media after leaving Federal Court in Salt Lake City Wendesday April 10, 2013, for his initial appearance on an indictment on conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in connection to his I Works company.
Johnson: Swallow had me launder donations to Lee’s campaign
Politics » Bombshell about “clear” violation of election laws pops up in newly unsealed search warrant.
First Published Jun 04 2014 10:35 pm • Last Updated Jun 05 2014 11:41 am

Indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson told state investigators that he laundered tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Mike Lee’s successful 2010 Senate bid at John Swallow’s request — a flagrant violation of federal election law.

The bombshell is buried in a 41-page affidavit supporting a newly unsealed search warrant in the ongoing criminal investigation of Swallow, Utah’s former attorney general, and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Johnson said that at the request of Swallow, who was helping Lee raise money, he gave about $50,000 of his money to other individuals, who subsequently donated to Lee’s campaign. Federal campaign law bars such straw donations.

"It’s clearly a violation. You can’t make a contribution in the name of another, and effectively giving money to someone else to make a contribution is clearly that," said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow with the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based group that monitors campaign-finance law and trends.

"I would characterize it as a serious violation, one that federal prosecutors look at closely and often prosecute," Biersack said. "People go to jail for that."

Johnson told investigators he did the same thing for Shurtleff when the then-attorney general was considering a 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, orchestrating more than $100,000 in straw donations — again at Swallow’s request — before Shurtleff abandoned his campaign, citing concerns for his daughter’s health.

Shurtleff said in a text message Wednesday that, if such a tactic was used, he didn’t know of it.

"I would never solicit nor accept ‘straw’ donations to any campaign," Shurtleff said.

Lee’s spokesman, Brian Phillips, said neither the freshman senator nor anyone in the campaign had any knowledge of such an arrangement with Johnson.

A message left for Swallow’s attorney was not returned.


story continues below
story continues below

There is no indication in the affidavit that either Lee or Shurtleff knew of the alleged scheme.

The warrant — which was issued in February but sealed until Wednesday — obtained emails, calendar items, contact lists and other documents on the Google account of Jessica Fawson, Swallow’s 2012 campaign manager.

The accompanying affidavit is the first public indication that Johnson — whose allegations sparked the scandal that drove Swallow from office — is cooperating with the criminal probe.

Johnson has said that Swallow helped orchestrate plans to aid the embattled St. George businessman in fighting a federal investigation of his I Works business.

Johnson faces numerous federal felony fraud charges, as well as a civil lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission in association with his business dealings.

An investigation by the Utah House hinted previously that such straw donations to Lee may have occurred and identified an email from Swallow to Johnson that indicated several of the straw donors’ checks bounced.

In a June 2010 email to Johnson, Swallow wrote: "I was told that four [of] those checks bounced. I’ll forward you the names."

"I am really sorry about the checks. I will get it fixed ASAP!" Johnson replied. "Let me know [whose] bounced. I was in a mad rush to get those so maybe I pushed a few people too hard."

Johnson told investigators that Swallow cashed some of the checks from the straw donors before the individuals could deposit the money that Johnson had given them, causing the checks to bounce.

During Shurtleff’s flirtation with a Senate bid, Johnson had made similar straw contributions, he told investigators.

In a 2009 email, Johnson wrote to Swallow, then a chief fundraiser for Shurtleff, that he could get $100,000 for Shurtleff’s budding Senate campaign. In a later email, Johnson told Swallow that he has "commitments for $113,600 so far with no 1 person donating more than $7,200."

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.