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The office of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday dismissed a corruption investigation by Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings as political grandstanding.
Rawlings confirmed Tuesday that his prosecution of former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff had spread to involve an investigation of Reid, the apparent connection being St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson and his allegations that Reid may have taken money from online-poker companies.
"This individual has decided to use Sen. Reid's name to generate attention to himself and advance his political career," Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said in a statement. "So every few months, he seeks headlines by floating the same unsubstantiated allegations."
Rawlings fired back: "I need no additional attention. … This is not a [public relations] game."
Shurtleff and his successor, former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, have been charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors after a multipronged investigation into allegations of a pay-to-play climate inside the Utah attorney general's office.
Both men have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for separate trials in 2016. Johnson is a key witnesses in both cases.
Rawlings, a Republican, has not publicly detailed the evidence he may hold, but he has said that the accumulated information points to "overlap in facts and multiple witnesses" in the Shurtleff and Swallow cases and an apparent tie to Reid, D-Nev.
That's likely related to online-poker payments that Johnson and his business partners processed through the now-shuttered SunFirst Bank in St. George.
Payments allegedly were made to Reid, then the Senate's majority leader, to win his support for legalizing online poker.
Johnson, a contributor to the Shurtleff and Swallow campaigns, has said Swallow set him up with the late payday-loan entrepreneur Richard Rawle in a scheme to get Reid to stall a Federal Trade Commission probe into Johnson's online-marketing company.
Johnson has characterized the undertaking as an attempt to "bribe" Reid. Swallow has called it "lobbying."
But Johnson has gone further and said he believed Reid may have received $2 million from SunFirst Bank accounts of Full Tilt Poker to introduce legislation to ensure that online poker is legal in the United States.
The state charges against Shurtleff and Swallow came after federal investigations of the two former attorneys general were abandoned. The U.S. attorney's office for Utah recused itself from the inquiry for undisclosed conflicts, and the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section in Washington declined to prosecute.
Reid previously has denied Johnson's allegations, and, on Wednesday, Orthman dismissed them again as "unsubstantiated."
If that's the case, Rawlings retorted Wednesday, then Reid should help him secure "every scrap of evidence" gathered as part of the Shurtleff-Swallow investigation that was used to justify the decision by federal prosecutors to drop the matter something that federal prosecutors have been reluctant to provide.
"You may end up being an important witness," Rawlings said of Reid. "Please urge the Department of Justice to provide the exonerating evidence and information so we do not have to litigate the issues in Utah. Your anticipated assistance is greatly appreciated."