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Swallow, Shurtleff charges 'validation' for legislators, Dunnigan says

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SALT LAKE CITY — The chair of the House committee that investigated John Swallow said Tuesday the charges filed against former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff serve as "validation" for legislators' $3.8 million inquiry, but he and other lawmakers acknowledged there was unfinished business on Utah's Capitol Hill in terms of reform.

"It is, I think, a validation and a continuance of the work that our House Investigative Committee did," said Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville. "I think it was money that was well worth it."

The investigation culminated in 3,700 pages of exhibits, a 200-page report and the ultimate conclusion that former Attorney General John Swallow "hung a veritable ‘for sale' sign" on his office door.

Dunnigan said the findings were passed on to prosecutors, and it reflected in the charges.

"They're almost straight out of our report — concerns that we had," Dunnigan said.

Dunnigan said the investigative process showed changes in the law are needed. He said a grand jury may prove to be more efficient the next time around, and legislative subpoenas should require a swift response.

"We issued 9 subpoenas that were not responded to, we issued 17 overall," Dunnigan said. "Certainly part of the strategy against us by the other side was just to wait us out and delay, delay, delay."

Other legislators said Tuesday that much greater fixes are needed — including campaign finance reform.

"Forty-seven states have campaign limits," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D- Salt Lake City. "Utah doesn't, and boy does the money flow in from the special interests."

Dabakis called for public pressure on other lawmakers to support reform.

"I have seen nothing — nothing — that leads me to believe that the politicians are going to step away from the honey pile," Dabakis said. "That needs to change or I guarantee that in 6 months or a year or a year-and-a-half, we'll be facing this all over again."

The need for campaign limits was also echoed by Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"I think it's inexcusable for the state of Utah to have unlimited campaign donations," Jowers said.

Jowers said since he chaired the Governor's Commission on Strengthening Utah's Democracy under former Gov. Jon Huntsman, he has warned about the potential for the kinds of troubles documented in the Swallow and Shurtleff charges to surface at the Attorney General's office.

"That office's donors are going to be populated by people who are either looking for protection or looking for special treatment, so they don't get investigated," Jowers said.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he may in time revisit legislation that would allow voters to decide whether Utah's Attorney General should be an appointed position.

Weiler sponsored legislation in the 2014 session, but ultimately held his bill when it appeared he did not have enough support to push it through both houses of the legislature.

Weiler said once the cases against Swallow and Shurtleff are resolved, he may introduce the legislation a second time.


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