"This has morphed into something that could get crazy." John Swallow, Utah attorney general
Memo to Mr. Swallow: It's already crazy.
The unprecedented resolution, considered and passed by the Utah House on Independence Eve, to formally investigate the flood of ethical violations alleged to have been committed by the attorney general did not come out of the blue. The creation of an investigatory panel, with the power to subpoena evidence and take testimony under oath, was a reasonable response to the fact that Swallow's brief time in office has been nothing more than a series of embarrassing charges and revelations.
It all goes back to a deeply flawed election process, where a totally unrepresentative caucus-and-convention system and single-party electoral dominance gave the people of Utah an attorney general who had no background as a prosecutor, and precious little as a public servant of any kind, but was instead a well-connected political fixer and fundraiser.
Swallow had been in office barely a week when the accusations began. He is suspected to have taken active roles in schemes to assist or demand assistance from various businessmen who were under investigation by various agencies, people who should have been treated by an attorney general, or anyone connected to one, like so much radioactive material.
The story is long and complicated and filled with a rogues gallery of characters who, individually, might not be believable, but who, collectively, sketch a pattern of behavior worthy of the House's concern and action.
The 69-3 vote to launch the probe was overwhelmingly bipartisan to the extent that any action by a body so overwhelmingly dominated by a single party can be. But the fact that it is Swallow's fellow Republicans who are clearly driving this probe is telling. Rather than circle the wagons around their embattled party member, it seems clear that most Republicans are tripping over each other to distance themselves from the office holder at the center of this storm.
The House is taking a measured approach, initially limiting the scope of the investigation to actions allegedly taken only since Swallow became a government official. And the panel will report its findings to the whole House, which properly reserves for itself the question of whether impeachment proceedings are called for.
This is all uncharted territory in Utah. So it could, indeed, get a little crazy.
Or Swallow could make it less so, and do what he should have done months ago: resign.