SALT LAKE CITY — A special Utah House committee is assembling a high-powered team to investigate Attorney General John Swallow while rumors suggest the U.S. Department of Justice will not file criminal charges against him.
An evaluation panel selected two firms Friday to help the nine-member committee gather information during its unprecedented investigation of the embattled attorney general.
The New York-based Mintz Group, associated with Steve Clark of Eden, Weber County, will be lead the investigative team that will also include Lindquist & Associates of Salt Lake City.
"This gives us a strong team with both experience in complex investigations and local knowledge," said Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, the committee's chairman.
The Mintz Group was the chief investigative firm for the Connecticut House of Representatives committee formed to investigate then-Gov. John Rowland in 2004. Founder and president Jim Mintz will serve as the Utah House committee's lead investigator, a position he held during the Rowland investigation.
Steven Reich, whom the committee tabbed as its lead attorney in the Swallow investigation, served as special counsel to the Connecticut House committee in the Rowland matter. Facing impeachment, Rowland resigned and later served 10 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges.
Meantime, sources have said that the DOJ is close to informing Swallow that it will not pursue charges against him.
"There's a lot of stuff floating out there. Nothing's happened yet. There's just talk," Dunnigan said.
Regardless of other investigations, the committee still has a duty to gather facts and report them to the House and the public, he said. He suggested the House investigation goes beyond Swallow.
"Another purpose of our committee is to determine what adjustments may be needed to state law regarding campaigning and fundraising. We have that duty, I suppose, no matter what," Dunnigan said.
Swallow's attorney Rod Snow said he has received no word — official or otherwise — from federal authorities.
"Obviously, I expect to hear something sometime from the DOJ. I just do not know when that will be. My hope is the ultimate outcome will be consistent with my view of the evidence that I have reviewed. I have not seen a basis for the filing of a criminal charge, state or federal," Snow said.
As reports swirl that Swallow might be cleared in the ongoing federal investigation, a Utah Policy and KSL poll of political insiders this week showed 48 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans say there is plenty more for the House committee to investigate.
At the same time, 31 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Democrats believe that if Swallow were cleared, it would "de-fang" the House investigation. Also, a quarter of both Republicans and Democrats say clearing Swallow would make him a more sympathetic character.
Swallow, a first-term Republican, is the subject of five different investigations.
The DOJ’s Public Integrity Section has an ongoing investigation, as do the Salt Lake and Davis county attorneys in a joint effort. The lieutenant governor’s office has hired special counsel to look at issues relating to Swallow’s campaign finance reporting, and two complaints were filed with the Utah State Bar.
We expect this team will be thorough and professional. We have absolute confidence that the committee will be able to put together the facts we've been tasked to pursue.
–Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R- Taylorsville
The Utah U.S. Attorney's office opened an investigation in Swallow but later recused itself and handed it off to the DOJ in May.
Swallow maintains he has done nothing wrong and has said he expects to be exonerated.
Earlier this month, the Utah House committee chose Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, based in Washington, D.C., to work as its legal counsel.
Reich, who worked as deputy chief investigative counsel to Democrats on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and in the U.S. Senate during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, will be one of two lead attorneys. Prior to joining Akin Gump in July, he worked as an associate deputy attorney general to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The other lead attorney, Steven Ross, heads the law firm's congressional investigation practice and is former general counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Along with the investigators, the House panel has put together an experienced group to look into Swallow.
“We expect this team will be thorough and professional,” Dunnigan said. “We have absolute confidence that the committee will be able to put together the facts we’ve been tasked to pursue.”
The House committee has held one meeting and plans to meet again Sept. 11. Dunnigan said the committee will discuss an action plan and timeline for the investigation.
Contributing: Richard Piatt