Our View: Swallow must be prosecuted

Thursday , March 20, 2014 - 2:19 PM

Editorial Board, Standard-Examiner

In a New York Times article on the John Swallow investigation, Davis County District Attorney Troy Rawlings had this to say: “At the end of the day, people will be surprised at both the breadth and depth of this investigation.”

That’s good to know. We have this to add: If at the end of the day, there is no criminal prosecution of Swallow and perhaps others, the breadth and depth of the investigation will mean little.

There must be a criminal prosecution of the former attorney general. Utah spent $4 million to dig and uncover allegations of blatant wrong-doing. That amount of unethical behavior and possible criminal activity is large. The investigation alleges the attorney general’s office was a place for the payday loan industry to provide money with a future hope that regulations against the lax industry could be stalled or stopped.

It’s alleged the hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for Swallow via non-profit so-called social welfare interest groups. One, called The Proper Role of Government Education Association, raised more than $450,000, primarily from the payday loan industry. Money eventually found its way into “super PACs,” where it was used — without an identifiable origin other than the non-profit’s name — to benefit Swallow. An example of this was money spent by a Nevada-based Super PAC, It’s Now or Never, to attack Swallow’s primary opponent, current Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. The Swallow investigation shows money from The Proper Role of Government Education Association was given to the Nevada Super PAC.

It will be a Byzantine effort to prosecute Swallow and some of his minions. But it must be done. A prosecution would also serve to move Utah toward greater campaign finance reform. Our legislators’ failure to set simple campaign limits is an embarrassment. The Swallow saga shows what can happen — what can be enabled — in a state that has little respect for campaign finance reform or lobbying reform.

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