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Utah Attorney General Blames 'False Allegations' For Forcing Resignation

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AP Photo / Rick Bowmer

At a press conference in Utah's capitol building, a "heartbroken" Swallow repeatedly asserted his innocence to the allegations that have been swirling around him for nearly a year. He said he came to the decision to resign last weekend, and that his decision was not influenced by a soon-to-be-released report from the lieutenant governor's office that will reportedly conclude he failed to report business interests and income on financial disclosure forms.

"I have broken no laws, and I have vowed to fight for my honor and good name with my very last dollar," Swallow said. "Now is the time for the madness to stop and for the state to move forward."

While he delivered a letter of resignation to Gov. Gary Herbert (R) on Thursday, Swallow announced that he would remain in office through Dec. 2.

"I look forward to clearing my name as a private citizen," Swallow said.

The allegations against Swallow first surfaced in January, just days after the Republican was sworn into office. A Utah businessman, Jeremy Johnson, came forward and accused Swallow of helping broker a 2010 deal where he believed he was to pay Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) $600,000 to make a federal investigation go away. In March, the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah filed a complaint with the lieutenant governor's office, that Swallow's financial disclosure forms contained twelve violations. (Reid's office denied any connection to Johnson in January.)

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the allegations in the complaint included that Swallow tried to conceal his ties to a company, P-Solutions, and $23,500 in payments he received from Richard Rawle, the late owner of a Utah payday-loan company. According to the Tribune, that money came from Johnson, who had hired Rawle to help him avoid a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit. The lieutenant governor's office reportedly deemed three of the allegations worthy of further investigation, and its report recommended action that could have led to a judge invalidating Swallow's election.

In addition to the lieutenant governor's office's investigation, Swallow was also the target of a Utah House committee investigation, which received the bulk of Swallow's ire on Thursday.

"Many have viewed [the House investigation] as an unconstitutional assault by the legislative branch on the executive branch of government," Swallow said. "Pure and simple, I believe that the House investigation was calculated to drive me from office."

But the investigations do not even end there. While a federal bribery investigation into Swallow fizzled in September, documents from that probe were inherited by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, which has its own case underway. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told TPM on Thursday that his investigation of Swallow is ongoing, and would not be affected by Swallow's status in or out of office.

"We've had no discussion of suspending our investigation," Gill said. "We're looking to see what if any criminal charges are implicated under the state statutes."

Gill said his office is working with the FBI and another district attorney's office, and is currently interviewing witnesses and pursuing leads.

"We're right in the middle of it," Gill said.

In his press conference, Swallow said he had seen proof that what Johnson had alleged "wasn't true," and he rhetorically asked, "Why do you think the Department of Justice would not press forward with charges?" And he said he stayed in office as long as he has because he worried about the message it would send if he resigned.

"I worried what would happen to future prospects for political office, if I were to leave and these allegations were not true," he said.

Alliance for a Better Utah, the group that in March filed the complaint with the lieutenant governor's office, met the news of Swallow's resignation with mixed emotions.

"I think resignation is a bit bittersweet," Maryann Martindale, the alliance's executive director, told TPM on Thursday, before Swallow made the news official at the press conference. "He really probably should have done this long ago. "

Martindale noted that the House committee investigation had already spent over $1.5 million on its own investigation of Swallow, in addition to the costs of the lieutenant governor's investigation, and she said that Swallow could have kept Utah taxpayers from having to pay that money if he had resigned sooner. (Swallow himself noted Thursday that "the cost to the state and taxpayers has been enormous.) But now, Martindale said, "he resigns sort of to skirt the responsibility of it."

"The public should be frustrated about this," she said.

About The Author

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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com