There’s one very big reason House Republicans are moving forward with the investigation of Attorney General John Swallow: 2014. ---
The political shrapnel from the Swallow circus could hit a number of Republican legislators, particularly in Salt Lake County, and open a wound that would be difficult to treat.
Remember those Matheson=Pelosi signs Morgan Philpot tried to use against Jim Matheson in 2010? Those didn’t work. But, Swallow=Republican has the potential to resonate loudly with the electorate; 87% of voters have heard of the allegations against John Swallow. That number will grow as this investigation moves forward and saturates news coverage.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
Any embarrassing information that should surface during the course of this investigation has the potential to splatter Republicans. More importantly, that detritus may stick this time.
Remember all of the other recent scandals involving Republicans that just washed away, like water off a duck's back?
- Republican Representative Kevin Garn admitted to a hot-tub romp with a teenage girl the last night of the 2010 session and got a standing ovation on the floor. He later resigned.
- Republican Senator Sheldon Killpack was stopped for drunk driving on the eve of the 2010 Legislative session and resigned almost immediately.
- UDOT paid out $13 million to the losing bidder on the I-15 CORE project because the bid process was so rife with irregularities. While this is not technically a Republican scandal, it happened under the watch of Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, and it happened without Herbert’s knowledge.
- Remember “Guzzle Gate,” when then-Republican Speaker of the House Greg Curtis charged the state for gas and mileage on a county-owned vehicle?
- West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder was revealed to be fake journalist “Richard Burwash.”
- During his 2008 run for State Treasurer, Republican. Rep. Mark Walker allegedly offered his primary opponent, Richard Ellis, a job if he dropped out of the race. Walker later resigned from the Legislature to avoid an ethics complaint.
- How about HB477, which attempted to change the GRAMA open-records law? Republicans slammed that thing through in the dying days of the 2011 session, only to repeal it a few days later because of public outcry.
Each of those scandals was trumpeted by Democrats as “the one” that would finally turn voters against the GOP.
All of those scandals failed to “stick” to Republicans during subsequent elections (although Curtis was defeated by Democrat Jay Seegmiller in 2008). Some of that was due to Democrats ineptly trying to make them an election issue. Remember how Peter Corroon tried in vain to bludgeon Herbert with the UDOT scandal? Democrats tried to make HB477 an issue during the 2012 campaign, but that effort was met with a big “meh” by voters.
But, for some reason, the John Swallow investigation feels different. Maybe it’s the avalanche of news coverage. Maybe it’s the salaciousness of the allegations. Maybe it’s because of the extremely high profile of the Attorney General’s office.
This scandal “has legs,” as they say in show business.
And Republicans know it. Bob Bernick reported last week that the House GOP Caucus was acutely aware of how this might play during the 2014 elections -- potentially tipping some west-side Salt Lake County districts in favor of the minority Democrats.
Legendary football coach Woody Hayes once said about the forward pass: “Three things can happen, and two of them are bad.”
I see the same thing with the John Swallow situation.
The possible outcomes:
- John Swallow resigns. This would be the ideal situation for Utah Republicans. He, and his surrounding problems, quietly goes away. Republicans appoint his successor, who does nothing and runs for re-election in 2014.
- John Swallow is impeached. This would be a mixed bag for Republicans. Since they control the process, it’s possible they could manage the investigation and subsequent trial to minimize the blowback. Democrats could try to make some noise and tether the Republicans to Swallow, but there are so few of them in the Legislature, it’s hard to see them being very successful.
- The investigation into Swallow uncovers some embarrassing things, but he remains in office. This would be a nightmare for Republicans. Democrats could run against Swallow instead of their Republican opponent, using Swallow as a “straw man.” If that happens, Democrats could run roughshod over Republicans screaming about ethics.
Yes, there is a fourth possibility. The investigation turns up nothing and Swallow is completely exonerated.
Given everything we know so far, that seems a bit far-fetched.