- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah lawmakers investigating former Attorney General John Swallow are working on proposals that tighten campaign reporting requirements and laws about evidence tampering, among other regulations.

The nine-member bipartisan House committee reviewed two draft proposals Wednesday afternoon that were prompted by the investigation.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, a Taylorsville Republican who chairs the House committee, said two other bills are in the works.

Dunnigan said it’s difficult to say whether the legislation they’re working on will prevent a similar situation with an elected official, but it will add clarity to the law.

“I don’t expect that we’re going to prohibit any bad acts somebody wants to do,” Dunnigan said to reporters after the committee’s meeting. “But I think if we update it, we’ll have a good tool going forward.”

One proposal addresses state laws about tampering with witnesses and evidence.

A draft of the bill states it would be a violation if someone interfered with a legislative investigation, audit, proceeding or other civil process. It would also add evidence tampering or falsifying a government record as offenses under an existing law against any pattern of unlawful activity.

Violations under that law are a felony that carries a possible prison term of one to 15 years.

The other proposal spells out explicitly which business entities and conflicts of interest candidates are required to disclose.

The committee discussed the proposals but did not take any action. They can make changes and recommend a proposal. Any official votes approving and advancing the legislation would be done by a legislative committee once the bills are formally introduced.

Dunnigan said the first of the bills should be available in a week or so.

He said the committee will have to meet again soon to discuss the other proposals, which clarify the powers of legislative investigations and make additional campaign finance regulations.

He said lawmakers will have to continue to study other lingering issues, such as outside employment by state workers, once the legislative session ends this year.

Swallow, a Republican, resigned late last year. His nearly 11 months in office were overshadowed by accusations of misconduct, including allegations he offered to protect several businessmen in return for favors.

He repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has pledged to clear his name.

The House committee cut its work short when Swallow resigned and reviewed the findings in December.

Investigators working for lawmakers said Swallow’s 2012 attorney general campaign obscured donations from the payday loan industry that were funneled through various groups.

They also said Swallow intentionally deleted electronic records and fabricated other documents to throw off any inquiry into his dealings with businessmen.

Swallow’s attorney Rod Snow denied that and argued lawmakers were unfair and one-sided in their investigation.

Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, whose office oversees elections, has also presented lawmakers with findings from a separate investigation his office made into Swallow’s 2012 campaign disclosures.

Swallow deliberately withheld information about business interests and tens of thousands of dollars in income from his campaign documents last year, Cox’s office said.

He also tried to influence a probe into the matter by altering witness statements and apparently destroying documents, the office said.

Cox declined to pursue penalties because Swallow had announced his resignation.

Swallow and Snow denied the allegations in the report. Swallow said he consulted an attorney to help him prepare his documents.

Beyond working on changes to state law, Dunnigan’s committee is also finishing up a report of its findings, which is expected to be released in three or four weeks.

That report will also include 1,300 emails recently recovered from Swallow’s personal computer, which Dunnigan said largely corroborate the committee’s findings.

The lawmakers’ investigation has cost $3.8 million so far, Dunnigan said.

In addition to the probes by the Utah House and the lieutenant governor’s office, two Utah county attorneys, with the assistance of the FBI, are in the middle of a criminal investigation of Swallow and others.

The Salt Lake County district attorney’s office and the Davis County attorney’s office already have filed criminal charges against an associate of Swallow as part of that probe.

Swallow, who has not been charged with any crimes, was also the subject of two complaints at the Utah State Bar last year. Both were dismissed.

In September, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was closing a federal bribery probe without filing charges against Swallow.


Follow Michelle Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice.



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