Democrats Say They Tried To Prevent the Swallow Scandal 69 Times

utah, democrats, chair, senator, jim dabakis
Utah Democratic Party Chairman, Jim Dabakis

Armed with a lengthy list of bills to back them up, Utah Democrats are saying they’ve been proposing legislation for over a decade that would have prevented John Swallow-type scandals – but Republican legislators killed the bills.

“We’ve been running good governance bills for years. An ethical and moral government is critical to a healthy democracy,” says Democratic Party chairman Jim Dabakis. “For over a decade we’ve been warning that something like [the current John Swallow scandal] could happen, and have proposed legislation that would have prevented this whole mess. Unfortunately, our bills never became law.”

The lengthy list stretches back all the way to the 1997 legislative session, and includes 69 ethics and campaign finance bills – only 6 of which became law.  That’s an average of more than four pieces of related legislation being proposed per year. The list includes everything from a ban on gifts to elected officials (Sen. Pat Jones) to a bill from the recent 2013 session by Representative Brian King which would have limited the amount of money elected officials campaigning for office (like Attorney General John Swallow) would have been allowed to take in.

“A crisis of ethics, like the one we find ourselves in today, doesn’t come out of nowhere,” says Democratic Representative Brian King. “Utah’s government has explicitly refused to put in place even a modicum of campaign finance regulation to stop corruption before it happens.”

Utah’s finance laws are some of the most lax in the country, and place no limits on how much money—or from whom—a candidate for office can take in. According to the Democrats, leaving the purse hanging open like that has created a culture begging to be abused.

“This could have been prevented,” says Dabakis.

Democrat Ethics Bills

5 Replies to “Democrats Say They Tried To Prevent the Swallow Scandal 69 Times

  1. Nevermind that Swallow (and Shurtleff) haven’t really shown any inclination to follow written law when it got in the way, but when they could have skirted what laws are on the books without batting an eye.

    So…nice headline, but i’m not convinced it would have made a dramatic difference with these two men.

    1. Good point Daniel. If the 69 bills had been passed, it may not have prevented Attorney General John Swallow or former AG Shurtleff from breaking some laws (if, in fact, laws were broken), but they definitely would have prevented many aspects of the scandal. For instance, the bills limiting how much money can be raised; if the caps were there, not as much money would have been involved.

      1. If you amend your last line to include “that we know about” then i’ll agree with you. Given that there have been several instances of either Swallow’s campaign forgetting to report something or his donors forgetting to report something or someone thinking they didn’t need to…or that if they sold enough books they wouldn’t need to report it…I’m not convinced that it would have made more transparency or just resulted in more prevarication and obfuscation.

        The answer isn’t caps: it’s better transparency and tracking. Money is like water–it always finds a way through. You might as well channel it and make sure the voters know about it.

        1. Don’t agree that caps won’t do anything. Are there ways around caps? Sure. But there are ways around transparency laws too. The answer isn’t one or the other, the answer is both. There’s simply no reason why a state candidate should be raising $1.4 million.

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