A newly revealed document disclosed the details of an alleged scheme where an embattled Utah businessman claims to have used straw donors to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) 2010 campaign.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported late Wednesday on a 41-page affidavit filed in connection to the investigation of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff. According to the Tribune, the affidavit lays out how indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson told state investigators that, at the request of Swallow, he gave around $50,000 of his own money to other people, who then donated to Lee’s campaign. Johnson told investigators he did the same thing for Shurtleff when Shurtleff was considering his own 2010 Senate run.
Brian Phillips, a spokesperson for Lee, told TPM by phone on Thursday that neither Lee nor the campaign had any knowledge of any arrangement with Johnson, and that neither the senator nor the campaign have been contacted by any investigative agency regarding the matter. Asked whether Lee had any plans to return the money in question, Philips said there hadn’t yet been any discussion about it.
“We’re obviously waiting to see the results of the investigation before any decision is made,” Phillips wrote in a follow-up email.
Likewise, Shurtleff told the Tribune he was unaware of any scheme to contribute to his campaign.
The affidavit was filed in February to support a search warrant investigators used to obtain documents from Swallow’s 2012 campaign manager. According to the Tribune, the document is the first indication that Johnson is cooperating with the ongoing criminal investigation.
Earlier this week, state and federal agents searched Swallow and Shurtleff’s homes in connection to the probe, which reportedly is looking into possible evidence of bribery, obstruction of justice, and misuse of public funds related to the state attorney general’s office.
Swallow announced his resignation as state attorney general last November, following a series of investigations that loomed over him during his short tenure in office. (Federal prosecutors reportedly decided last year not to bring charges.)
Johnson, who has been accused of running a fraudulent $350 million software scheme and is facing dozens of federal charges, has previously accused Swallow of brokering a 2010 deal where Johnson believed he was supposed to pay $600,000 to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make a federal investigation go away. (Reid’s office has denied any knowledge or involvement in such a scheme.) The alleged straw donor scheme involving Lee was previously hinted at by a Utah House investigation, according to the Tribune. Back in March, the newspaper reported that the House investigation tied Lee and “his campaign fundraising efforts to Swallow, who, according to the report, helped create a network of political committees meant to launder and hide hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from the payday loan industry in which Swallow once worked.”