Robert Gehrke, Utah’s best political reporter (IMHO), broke a story this morning that will have Utah politicos talking and arguing for a while: Indicted Businessman Ties Swallow to Alleged Scheme.
The story contains allegations from indicted Utah businessman/philanthropist Jeremy Johnson that John Swallow, recently elected as Attorney General, worked with Johnson to help him try to bribe Harry Reid (through a third-party lobbying firm) in an attempt to stop an FTC investigation into Johnson’s business interests.
As you work your way through the article, the names of Utah’s legal-political elite appear everywhere, and no one comes away unscathed — with the exception, perhaps, of Dee Smith, the Democratic Candidate for Attorney General, who appears to have been brought (at least partially) up to speed on this in the days before the election and, despite obvious political self-interest, showed remarkable restraint by uttering nary a word (at least publicly).
The article reads a bit like a tragic comedy, with the characters working frantically on what seems to be an entirely quixotic effort to stall an FTC investigation by influencing a United States Senator who likely didn’t know that most these individuals existed until the Tribune’s story was published this morning. The players come off as inept and naive, sincerely uncertain about just what it is that they’re doing, or have done, and its legal consequences.
People who follow this blog, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, know that I actively (well, as actively as a blogger does) opposed John Swallow for Attorney General. My concern was never about his character as much as his legal competency. From my — admittedly very limited — interactions with him, he seemed much as he comes off in this article, as a nice, sincere person in over his head — whether with his claim to be “running” the Obamacare lawsuit despite having only the most rudimentary understanding of the legal principles involved or his sloppiness in continuing to lobby on behalf of friends while a Deputy Attorney General.
There may be additional facts that will cast the story in a different light. We can assuredly expect attempts at character rehabilitation from all the main players, which will muddy the waters further before things start to become more clear.
All this will work itself out in time.
But there is one thing that I think is clear right now: Utahns need to take more seriously the post of Attorney General and our responsibility to elect this state’s chief law enforcement officer.