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News Blog

Feds investigating GOP bribery scandal?

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2009-10-09 -

You heard it here first--two months ago--that the 2008 Republican primary for Utah Treasurer bribery scandal was still being investigated and other politicians and power brokers may still be charged. News today reveals that the investigation may have gone federal.

In May 2008, Richard Ellis—then chief deputy state treasurer— filed an ethics complaint against Walker, his Republican primary opponent. Ellis alleged that, in March 2008, Walker offered him a $56,000 per year salary increase if Ellis would drop out of the race. In that complaint, Ellis said Walker assured him the offer had been cleared by the person “who could make it happen.”

City Weekly's Eric S. Peterson and myself uncovered in tedious detail--mostly details that had never before been revealed--what happened next in "Hot Potato Investigation." In August, the case seemed to have disintegrated with barely a whimper, and yet the prosecutors refused to released documents on the case saying it was still be investigated.

Today, the Tribune's Cathy McKitrick published comments from Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller that the case may now be on the desks of federal investigators.

"I had arranged to meet with [special prosecutor and Davis County Attorney] Troy [Rawlings]" -- next week, Miller said Thursday, "but he told me the case had gone to the feds for further investigation."

Rawlings, the FBI, and Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill--who's also been involved in the investigation--declined to confirm whether the feds are looking at the case. McKitrick doesn't make completely clear whether Rawlings also declined to confirm whether he really said that to Miller. Even if Rawlings did say it, it doesn't mean that he's right. But since he's the only investigator whose been involved from day one and continues to be involved, one might assume he knows what's up.

Dear readers, ask yourself these questions:

The feds--the FBI and U.S. Justice Department--never reveal whether or not an investigation is underway, so are they going to be pissed that Miller may have tipped off witnesses (who may be under surveillance)?

Walker, the alleged briber, has already been convicted of a minor election-law violation. He's now a registered lobbyist. So what else could the feds look at? Ellis? Others? Might they have stumbled upon something connected and larger?

McKitrick published a great investigation that got a lot less attention than it warranted--the Trib printed it July 4--in which she asks whether the St. George airport deal may have been somehow connected to the Walker/Ellis scandal. Anderson Development, lead by former judge Michael Hutchings--whose company was legally representatived at that time by former Utah Republican legislator-turned-lobbyist Greg Curtis--sought state-backed loans to turn the old St. George airport into suburban sprawl. Normally developers have to go to banks for those sorts of loans, but the company wanted access to state coffers. Eventually the deal fell through, McKitrick concluded, because Anderson refused to release the financial documents legislators sought before handing the company millions of dollars.

The silly Tribune takes their stories offline after just two weeks or so, but if you want to read McKitrick's July 4 investigation, whip out your library card: most local library systems make freely available on the Web the complete archives of the Trib, DNews and other news outlets.

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