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Group says Former AGs' Arrests Show Utah Politics Need Reform

PHOTO: The Alliance for a Better Utah says the arrests of two former Utah attorneys general, John Swallow (right) and his predecessor Mark Shurtleff (left), shows the need for state lawmakers to pass tougher ethics laws and tackle other reforms. Photo courtesy State of Utah.
PHOTO: The Alliance for a Better Utah says the arrests of two former Utah attorneys general, John Swallow (right) and his predecessor Mark Shurtleff (left), shows the need for state lawmakers to pass tougher ethics laws and tackle other reforms. Photo courtesy State of Utah.
July 16, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY - The arrests of two former Utah attorneys general show the need for stronger ethics laws, and campaign finance and election reforms, according to the Alliance for a Better Utah.

The nonpartisan government watchdog group filed the election-law complaint that ended in former Attorney General John Swallow's resignation late last year.

Maryann Martindale, the group's executive director, said there could be more arrests as the corruption probe continues.

"As they work through this case, there may be additional charges," said Martindale. "There may also be other people charged. We haven't seen the end of this, I think this is still going to reach a little bit farther than where it's gone."

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office filed multiple felony charges against former Attorneys General John Swallow and his predecessor Mark Shurtleff, alleging they received or solicited bribes while in office.

Both deny the allegations.

Martindale said Utah voters don't currently have the ability to recall elected officials, so election reform could include passing such a law. The state also has no limits on political donation amounts, as long as they are publicly disclosed.

Martindale said both are areas of concern for which her organization has long recommended changes.

"With these charges, I'm hopeful," said Martindale, "and it's something that we're certainly going to push for, the Legislature will be even more open to listening to this kind of pressure, and to pursuing these kinds of laws during our next session."

She added that limiting campaign donation amounts by law could help certain elected officials turn down large contributions, which in some circumstances could be considered bribes.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT