SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Democrats are pressing for an independent investigation into allegations that newly elected Utah Attorney General John Swallow helped arrange a deal to quash a federal probe into a businessman’s activities.
State Democratic Chairman Jim Dabakis said Utah’s “overwhelming one-party rule” by Republicans makes it difficult for the public to have confidence in a local investigation.
He asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations.
“These are very serious charges that have been made about the highest levels of Utah’s elected leaders,” Dabakis said in a statement. “The people of Utah deserve to know if their elected officials are crooks or unethical.”
Steve Olsen, past chairman of Weber County Democrats and vice chairman of the LDS Democratic caucus, agrees with Dabakis.
“With the current political imbalance in Utah, it would be difficult to get to the bottom of this,” the Plain City resident said. “An independent investigation would be a good idea.”
Olsen also pointed to the fact that the investigation wouldn’t have been needed if Utahns had voted for Swallow’s Democratic opponent in November, Weber County Attorney Dee Smith.
“Our local Weber County attorney is probably the most qualified person in decades,” he said. “If it had been a nonpartisan race, he would have won this.”
Olsen said leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints frequently remind their members to study political races and vote on qualifications and issues rather than party lines.
“I’m just waiting for the day when the members of that religion are going to start following the advice of their leaders,” he said.
Ryan Combe, who sought the Democratic Congressional nomination last year in the Utah 1st District, said the situation was unfortunate because he believed members of the media knew about the allegations and didn’t report on them before the election.
“It’s too bad either the press didn’t come out with the story before the election or John Swallow didn’t have enough integrity to let the voters know what they were getting into before they elected him,” Combe said.
“Time will tell. I think this is one of many allegations against John Swallow that are yet to come out.”
Indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson, accused of running a fraudulent $350 million software scheme, claimed Swallow arranged a deal to pay U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to quash a federal investigation into the software business.
Johnson, who is accused of billing hundreds of thousands of consumers for products they never ordered, has said that Swallow set up a deal in 2010 for Johnson to pay $600,000 to people connected to Reid.
Johnson says he believed the Nevada senator might intervene in the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation.
Swallow, a Republican, denied the allegations. He said he only offered to connect Johnson with a lobbying firm. At the time, he was serving as Utah’s chief deputy attorney general.
The case was set to go to trial after Johnson’s agreement with the government fell apart Friday. He has pleaded not guilty.