Report: Utah lawmaker suggests appointing, instead of electing, state AG

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Mar 20, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY (Legal Newsline) -- A Utah lawmaker wants the state Legislature to consider making the state's attorney general an appointed post instead of an elected one.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that state Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Davis and Salt Lake counties, has added the idea to a list of items lawmakers want to look at heading into next year's legislative session.

Weiler contends appointing an attorney general would eliminate any influence from campaign contributors.

"I'm just wondering whether it's a good state policy to ask these people who are running for this important office, the top chief law enforcement officer in the state, to be running around and asking for large sums of money," the senator told the AP.

According to the National Association of Attorneys General, the attorney general is popularly elected in 43 states, and is appointed by the governor in five states -- Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Wyoming -- and in the five jurisdictions of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

In Maine, the attorney general is selected by secret ballot of the legislature, and in Tennessee, by the state Supreme Court.

In the District of Columbia, the attorney general is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council.

However, that will change in 2015. At that time, the Attorney General's Office will become fully independent of mayoral control.

In 2010, a majority of voters favored the District's Home Rule Charter be amended to allow the election of an attorney general.

Utah Attorney General John Swallow is currently under fire for possible election law violations.

Earlier this month, the Alliance for a Better Utah filed an 18-page petition with the Lieutenant Governor's Office. The 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.

The petition comes 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. Both Swallow and Reid have denied the allegations.

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

Not long after taking office, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah confirmed Swallow is being investigated in coordination with the Department of Justice and the FBI.

A spokesman for the attorney general said at the time that the investigation was a "good" thing, saying Swallow "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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