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Utah ethics

Published January 24, 2013 5:29 pm

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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

The moment must be seized.

Republican leaders in Utah, rarely ruffled by scandal or appearance of scandal, are so embarrassed by the accusations flying around their newly minted attorney general that they are actually coming out in favor of some meaningful campaign and ethics reforms for public officials.

Limits on political donations. Bans on public officials having secret meetings with, and moonlighting for, private interests. A formal review panel for alleged ethical violations by executive branch officials.

Those leading this effort, notably state Republican Chairman Thomas Wright, must strike while the iron is hot. Gov. Gary Herbert expressed support for such measures Thursday, and his leadership will be crucial to their success.

The 2013 session of the Utah Legislature opens next week. Ethics reform should be near the top of their agenda.

Attorney General John Swallow hardly had the chance to break in his new office chair before he was beset by accusations that he had done unethical, even illegal, things to help out a friend who was facing civil and, later, criminal charges related to his online business. Swallow flatly denies the most serious charges leveled by businessman Jeremy Johnson, specifically that he was a fixer in a plot to bribe Johnson's way out of a Federal Trade Commission probe.

But the real reason Swallow is in so much trouble — and the reason this page last week called for his resignation — is that just the acts he admits to, even if legal, bring the A.G., and to a lesser degree all law enforcement, into serious disrepute.

While serving as chief deputy to his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, Swallow was doing private consulting work for a former employer, Check City boss Richard Rawle. Rawle was involved in the plan to lobby — or bribe — Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to come to Johnson's aid. Swallow, while campaigning for his current job, also had a secret meeting with Johnson, which Johnson secretly taped, to discuss the failure of the scheme, how Johnson might get his money back and how the whole affair might damage Swallow.

Johnson was also a big-time contributor to Shurtleff's campaigns.

Because even the legal stuff casts such a shadow over Utah Republicans, GOP Chair Wright has joined Democrats and others in calling for fundamental reforms.

There is some irony here. For if these reforms pass, and do shore up public confidence in Utah government, they may well be labeled the Swallow Reforms, and stand as his greatest contribution to state government.




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