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Complaint to target alleged laundered donations to Mike Lee
Politics » Experts doubt FEC would punish the senator for accepting allegedly laundered funds.

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Johnson faces 86 federal felony charges, as well as a civil lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission in association with his business dealings.

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

At a glance

The bounced checks

The Utah House investigation of John Swallow identified four checks — totaling $9,600 — to Mike Lee’s Senate campaign that bounced. The contributions ostensibly were from Arvin Lee Black (recently sentenced to prison for a Ponzi scheme), Atia Black and Matthew Black — all of whom have ties to Jeremy Johnson.

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"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 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.

Swallow forwarded the email exchange to Dan Hauser, one of Lee’s deputy campaign managers and finance director in 2010 who later served as the senator’s state director.

Hauser said Swallow had contacted the campaign andreported that Johnson wanted to deliver a number of contributions to Lee’s bid. Nobody in the campaign, including Lee, had met Johnson, but an Internet search showed the businessman had done humanitarian work in Haiti and had helped boys cast out of southern Utah polygamist sects.

"Jeremy Johnson, at that time," Hauser said, "looked like a great philanthropist and a donor any campaign would want."

Hauser said he was included in the email after the checks bounced for informational purposes.

"[We] categorically deny any involvement with any laundering scheme or anything like that," Hauser said. "The Lee campaign and Senator Lee had no knowledge if that actually occurred and never would have accepted that at all."

The report from the Utah House investigation of Swallow identified four checks totaling $9,600 that bounced. The contributions ostensibly were from Arvin Lee Black, Atia Black and Matthew Black. The Blacks have ties to Johnson.

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Three of the checks arrived on or before the day of Lee’s Republican primary with opponent Tim Bridgewater.

Arvin Lee Black was subsequently charged and later pleaded guilty to felony fraud charges for running what prosecutors said was a Ponzi scheme that defrauded an estimated 50 victims out of $21 million. He was sentenced last month to five years an three months in prison.

House investigators also found that Swallow tried to set up a retreat with Lee. The plan called for the two to fly aboard Johnson’s private jet to Alaska, where Swallow, Lee and campaign consultant Jason Powers could map out Lee’s campaign strategy. The trip apparently never took place.

It is not the first time that Swallow has found himself in the middle of federal campaign finance impropriety. When he ran for Congress in 2002, his campaign and several entities — made up of longtime Swallow supporters — were fined for exceeding contribution limits.

The campaign received checks from the business entities, but itemized them as donations from members who formed the businesses, violating campaign law. The FEC fined the campaign and the individuals more than $32,000 combined.


Twitter: @RobertGehrke

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