Utah GOP head speaks out about Swallow allegations

Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-23 21:18:30-05

SALT LAKE CITY - The head of the Utah Republican Party is speaking out about allegations against Utah Attorney General John Swallow.

Swallow has been accused of soliciting bribes by Jeremy Johnson, a southern Utah businessman and philanthropist who is facing federal fraud charges, while he served as Chief Deputy Attorney General.

Johnson says he went to Swallow, who introduced him to businessman Richard Rawle, and the three brokered a deal that, for $600,000, would get Harry Reid to intervene and get rid of the fraud charges.

Swallow says that Johnson asked him for help and Swallow simply pointed him to Rawle, who, for $250,000 could hire lobbyists to try and encourage the FTC investigators to drop the charges.

[VIDEO: The Swallow-Johnson allegations explained]

Thomas Wright, the head of the Utah Republican Party, told FOX 13 on Wednesday that while Swallow's account of the incident didn't break the law, he showed poor judgement and made mistakes in his dealings with Johnson.

Wright says that Swallow deserves due process and is innocent until proven guilty, and he will wait to see the results of an independent investigation.

But Wright says that the allegations are serious enough that they warrant the state look into how it handles ethics and how something like this could happen.

Wright suggested five steps for ethics reform: Full disclosure of all meetings elected officials and their staff participate in while acting in their role; an annual campaign contribution limit; no gifts. Period; no state contracts for donors until after a one-year period of donations; and an independent ethics commission to have oversight over these issues.

Swallow responded in a statement on Wednesday, saying, "Although I followed the law and office policy, I have said from the beginning that there are things that in hindsight I would have done differently."