Lawmaker wants to shine light on 'dark money' exposed by Swallow probe

Jan 31 2014 - 4:26pm

SALT LAKE CITY - A key state lawmaker hopes one thing will emerge from the John Swallow investigation -- legislation that deals with what he described as "dark money" or revenue that can't be directly tracked to a candidate or campaign.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, talked Friday about his relationship with Swallow, whom he described as a long-time friend, and the investigative process the Legislature took in investigating allegations about the former attorney general.

He said when the special House committee releases written results of the probe into Swallow, he hopes that will be basis for deliberate and not reactionary changes in Utah laws.  That report is expected sometime in February and will include details of the $3.5 million investigation, which linked Swallow to revenue that wasn't easily sourced.

"How do we deal with dark money?  Sometimes when we try to suppress apparent money we incentivize dark money. One of the biggest problems is when we don't know where the money comes from," Niederhauser said.

One bill prompted by that question is HB 294, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Holladay.  Her legislation would change reporting requirements for campaign and financing requirements.

The measure would require a detailed listing and disclosure, and the actual source of the contribution a candidate, or entity receives.  The bill is one of several Swallow-inspired campaign proposals expected to come up in the 45-day session.

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, was a member of the House investigative committee that reviewed allegations against Swallow.  He said it is critical state lawmakers respond to the dark money links the probe revealed.

"We do need to respond to the dark money and make sure if there are large amounts of money, that we can through transparency, show where it came from," Dee said.

Dee acknowledged past legislative efforts to bring campaign financing into clear view, may have contributed to the dark money trail linked to the former AG.  He said it's important to be able to trace all significant contributions to political action committees or candidates and put them in the public view.  He expects some campaign finance reform to pass the Legislature this session.

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