Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Swallow fallout has lawmakers asking questions about attorney general election

By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News

Published: Sat, Feb. 15 2:24 p.m. MST

 Utah Attorney General John Swallow speaks out Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 in his office at the State Capitol about allegations that he was involved in improper deals.

Utah Attorney General John Swallow speaks out Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 in his office at the State Capitol about allegations that he was involved in improper deals.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Senate committee found a proposal to appoint rather than elect the state's attorney general interesting enough to move it forward for more discussion.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, acknowledged his resolution calling for the governor to choose his own attorney general isn't perfect and faces an uphill battle. But he and members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee say it's worthy of debate on the floor and passed SJR3 unanimously.

"It's an intriguing idea," said Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, though he added he likely won't vote for it on the floor.

Weiler said it's something he has thought about for years, but the scandal that drove former Attorney General John Swallow from office last December prompted him to run a bill this session. He said he wants to remove fundraising and politicking form the state's top law enforcement job.

Weiler noted the huge fundraising disparity in the races for state treasurer and attorney general last year.

"The state treasurer can do nothing for his donors; the attorney general can," he said.

Thatcher said the idea of buying the attorney general's office with donations would just be transferred to the governor's office, making it more difficult to scrutinize.

If SJR3 passes both the Senate and the House with a two-thirds majority vote, it would go on the 2014 general election ballot for voters to decide whether to make attorney general an appointed office.

"This is not something that the Legislature would unilaterally change," Weiler said.

Under the proposal, a bipartisan nominating commission would advance five names to the governor for consideration. The governor's selection would go before the Senate for confirmation. The attorney general would serve one six-year term and could not be reappointed.

"This makes full sense to me," Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said he supports the resolution but "good luck getting it passed by the people because they're going to be defensive about losing their right to choose."

Weiler said because the attorney general represents the governor, the governor should have a say in who holds that position. He said the state has been dysfunctional in the past when the two officeholders had different agendas or were at odds.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, said that could happen each time there's a change of power or party in the governor's office due to the attorney general serving a six-year term. He said there's some validity to the argument that the two offices should be of like mind.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

Recommended
1. trueblue87
Provo, UT,
Feb. 14, 2014

Don't take the power from the people.

2. My2Cents
Taylorsville, UT,
Feb. 15, 2014

This idea is unconstitional to deprive people of their right of electing public representatives and making it chaotic for a one man ruler.

It is unconstitutional to grant the power of the Legislative, Administrative, and Judicial powers into the hands of one man. Separation of power's is a vital accountability of our government to the people.

What Utah lacks is our representatives continue to deny the citizens of Utah is ethical code of conduct for any leaders with respect, honor, and accountable to the people. The legislators have continually denied us this right and their only comeback is to further destroy the rights and liberties of the voters of this state?

We demand that a "Code of Conduct" law be established and is more important than bureaucratic power struggles that separtion of powers in our governemnt and Constitution makes it work.

Our state Constitution was written by honest believers in democracy and people freedoms and rights and it is not the right of generational discontent of politicans who seek socialism that guarantees eternal authority.

They should be looking at each other, not the laws and corruption permeating this body of government who are seeking eternal power over their serfs.

3. GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA,
Feb. 15, 2014

"Swallow fallout has lawmakers asking questions about attorney general election"

Lawmakers and citizens should be asking about more than just that.

They should be asking about how a culture of corruption has insinuated itself into Utah's Criminal so-called justice system.

Why have the previous to Republican Attorney's General apparently felt it was their right to exploit that office for personal gain?

How did the "justice" system become so self-absorbed, so all-powerful, and so arrogant that its members feel they can use it to exploit citizens with no fear of censure?

What makes Utah such a hotbed for systemic corruption in high places?

What about the fact that previous two Attorneys General were both Mormons active in their church? What's the correlation? Does their selfish behavior have something to do with feelings of superiority, privilege, and entitlement?

Could an unabashed Republican culture of greed be partially responsible?

Why does the Bee Hive state, purportedly a bastion of moral superiority, have such serious corruption issues with elected public officials?

4. NeilT
Clearfield, UT,
Feb. 15, 2014

The AG is a member of the governors cabinet. This is a no brainer. Let the governor choose his cabinet. Many states and the federal government already do this.

5. jean22
Bountiful, UT,
Feb. 15, 2014

The President of the United States appoints the U.S. Attorney General. That office is not voted on by the public.