The Swallow Affair.
—by John deJong
We’re not talking about a single incident of miscarried democracy here, but a whole wrecked train.
It starts with an elected official, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, hand-picking John Swallow as his successor. That sounds like a kingdom, not a democracy.
Swallow, appointed by Shurtleff as chief deputy, shook down the bushes around the attorney general’s office for campaign funds to get a leg up on his Republican competitors for the upcoming attorney general slot. Which bushes he beat tells us something about his “interests.”
Of the $142,100 in “contributions” Swallow actually reported, $20,000 came in what was surely believed to be “protection money” from the payday loan “industry,” all of it from out of state. Swallow was found by the Lt. Governor’s office to have “forgotten” to report tens of thousands of dollars of campaign income, most of it from the same “out-of-state” payday loan industry.
Another $7,350 of his “legitimate” campaign contributions came from other out-of -state individuals. But the coup de main was his $49,000 loan to himself. No one can say John Swallow wasn’t John Swallow’s biggest fan.
Reading Swallow’s campaign finance report, it seems Swallow had few real fans. But he won the election with 64% of the vote. That’s either an indictment of the intelligence of Utah’s voters or a severe indictment of our nepotistic nominating system.
Utah Republican party members knew of his odious character but collectively held their noses and nominated Swallow due to his shared devotion to the notion that the feds should turn large swaths of public lands to the tender mercies of the Utah Bureau of Oil, Gas & Mining. In a just world, Utah would immediately return any land it gets from the feds over to beleaguered remnants of Utah’s Indian tribes. But I don’t think that’s what they have in mind.
The upshot is that the 2012 election for Utah Attorney General is invalid. It should not be the role of the Republican party or the governor to nominate an attorney general. A special election should be held immediately. The citizens of Utah deserve fair elections.
The most appalling thing about the Swallow affair is not what a dirtbag John Swallow is, nor how a dirtbag of his caliber got nominated, much less elected, to the state’s highest law enforcement position, but why it took the Lt. Governor’s Office so long to figure out the funny bean counting on his campaign contribution reports. By not vetting Swallow’s campaign contribution reports in a timely manner and disqualifying Swallow as soon as his lies were unmasked, the Lt. Governor’s office contributed materially to this miscarriage of democracy.
It shouldn’t take a lawsuit from a special interest group to insure that election laws are followed.
The most severe punishments are reserved for only the most blatant of offenses. Apparently Swallow was saved from “serious” civil charges by resigning. Civil charges for perpetrating a fraud on democracy? Surely Utah can do better than that when it comes to ethics in our electoral process.