Petition alleges new Utah AG violated state election laws

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Mar 8, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY (Legal Newsline) -- Attorneys for a Utah advocacy organization have filed a petition with the Lt. Governor's Office, requesting an investigation into possible election law violations on the part of Attorney General John Swallow.

The Alliance for a Better Utah filed the 18-page petition with the office Thursday. The Lt. Governor's Office is tasked with enforcing state election laws and investigating any alleged violations.

The petition alleges 12 counts by the attorney general, who the group argues should be removed.

Among the allegations: Swallow filed a misleading or false campaign declaration and disclosure forms regarding his personal business interests; that he conducted campaign activities at his state office during and after business hours; and that he used campaign funds for personal use.

Alliance member and petitioner Crystal Young-Otterstrom said in a statement Thursday that several of Swallow's conflict of interest forms are "at best misleading" and "at worst untrue."

"Included among the many possible violations of election law is an odd gap between the original filing and the amended filing. And yet, even after filing an amended form, he still left off a number of his ownerships and board/trustee positions," she said.

"By filing this petition, I'm simply asking, why? Perhaps it's an effort to hide questionable payments from Richard Rawle (owner of a Utah payday loan company) and other questionable business relationships. Perhaps it's a simple matter of forgetting to cross every T. Either way, my fellow Utah citizens and I deserve more. We deserve the truth, and we deserve an investigation."

Young-Otterstrom argues that the entire reason for requiring conflict of interest disclosures is to allow voters to make an informed judgment when they go to the ballot box to elect their leaders.

"Candidates must be honest in their dealings with voters by making a full and complete disclosure of their sources of income and business interests. This requirement is so important that state law requires elected officials to be removed from office when they violate this agreement," she said.

"Utah deserves to know if our attorney general violated election law. It doesn't matter if he's a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Constitutionalist. Utah deserves a top law officer that follows the law. This investigation will bring the truth to light."

Maryann Martindale, the alliance's executive director, said the group's complaint offers Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and Swallow the opportunity to prove that Utah is capable of "keeping its own house in order."

"If Bell and Swallow won't act to enforce election laws, then there's really no reason for pretending that the election laws mean anything in the first place," she said in a statement.

"The bottom line is that state law has been violated. The good news is that, according to state law, we don't have to wait for whatever conclusions the U.S. Department of Justice may reach. Removal of an offending state officer doesn't have to wait for a lengthy, protracted criminal investigation -- state or federal.

"In fact, there are civil remedies available that can and should be used to restore confidence in our state government. The citizens of this state can no longer afford to sit around, holding their collective breath, waiting for justice to be served. Immediate action within the confines already provided by the law is our right."

The Alliance for a Better Utah, according to its website, is a "year-round, multi-issue education and advocacy organization providing resources, commentary, and action on important public policy matters."

The petition comes nearly two months after the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah confirmed that the newly-elected Swallow is being investigated for allegations that he helped make a federal investigation into a St. George businessman go away.

Jeremy Johnson is accused of running a multi-million-dollar fraudulent software scheme in which he billed hundreds of thousands of consumers for products they never ordered.

He has alleged that Swallow arranged a deal to pay U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to stop a Federal Trade Commission investigation into his business.

Swallow, a Republican, was elected in November to succeed Mark Shurtleff. He took office in January.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah confirmed in January Swallow is being investigated in coordination with the Department of Justice and the FBI.

A spokesman for Swallow said at the time that the investigation was a "good" thing, saying the attorney general "wants the facts to be known as much as anyone else."

Spokesman Paul Murphy also said at the time Swallow has no plans to resign.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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