Over the last several weeks we’ve seen two more state government high ranking officials resign over alleged campaign finance abuse and other ethics violations. Near the end of November, Utah’s then attorney general, John Swallow, announced his resignation from office effective December 3. Mark Darr, Arkansas’s current lieutenant governor, recently announced his resignation effective February 1.
Former Attorney General John Swallow was accused of failing to disclose business conflicts of interest, giving preferential treatment to donors, and violating attorney-client privilege while serving in the attorney general’s office. On January 11, 2013, businessman Jeremy Johnson accused Swallow of being part of a plan to bribe a U.S. senator to derail a Federal Trade Commission probe into an internet marketing company owned by Johnson. Another allegation of misconduct involved a scheme by Swallow’s election campaign to hide contributions of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the payday lending industry because Swallow “didn’t want voters to see him as a payday lender candidate.” In return, Swallow is said to have agreed to help them in their fight against federal consumer protection regulators. The money was run through a “convoluted network of political action committees and nonprofit entities to hide its sources.”
Investigations into Swallow’s misconduct found that there had been “intentionally deleted data and fabricated documents to cover any appearance of wrongdoing.” Investigators “outlined a pattern of Swallow intentionally deleting electronic data and giving contradictory statements about how the data went missing.” Swallow had asked an IT staffer in his office to wipe clean the hard drives of his state-issued desktop and laptop computers after he had gotten new ones to replace them. The staffer testified that Swallow appeared “nervous and anxious.” It appears that the staffer did not do what was requested because investigators discovered that the drives had not been wiped clean. In addition, he claims that he had lost a missing external hard drive on an airplane.
Click here for more info on the Swallow scandal.
The story behind the resignation of Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr is not as sensational as that of Utah’s former attorney general. Darr has been accused of using more than $30,000 of his campaign funds for personal use, receiving excess contributions to retire debt from his campaign, and failing to itemize loan repayments. He was also accused of misuse of government funds for improperly spending $3500 on his state credit card and then improperly filing for an equal amount in travel reimbursements. Darr has said the violations were unintentional. Click here for more info.
There were two other Arkansas elected officials who resigned in 2013 for misconduct. Former Senator Paul Bookout was accused of spending more than $53,000 in campaign contributions for personal items, and former State Treasurer Martha Shoffner was accused of accepting $36,000 from an investment broker in return for steering more state business to him. The alleged “quid pro quo” arrangement involved management of a larger portion of the state’s $3.3 billion investment portfolio.
Of course, the most well-known of all the scandals involving money in politics in 2013 is the one involving former Governor Bob McDonnell. The ongoing McDonnell scandal has cost Virginia taxpayers nearly $785,000 in legal fees for McDonnell so far. Virginia’s new attorney general, Mark Herring, will make the decision on whether the state will continue to fund McDonnell’s defense.
We are still awaiting an official announcement concerning the indictment of McDonnell, who recently completed his 4-year term as governor of Virginia. According to the Washington Post, federal prosecutors told McDonnell in early December that they intended to bring charges against him for an alleged “quid pro quo” arrangement that involved over $165,000 in cash and gifts to McDonnell and his family from Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams in return for special favors from the governor (see a prior post for more info).
Soon after McDonnell was contacted by federal prosecutors in December, attorneys for both McDonnell and his wife (each have their own attorneys), traveled to Washington and made an in-person appeal to Justice Department officials asking for a delay in the indictment. The attorneys argued that any indictment prior to the inauguration of the newly elected governor, Terry McAuliffe, would cause a disruption in Virginia government and hamper a smooth transition of power from McDonnell to the new governor. Federal charges are now expected to be filed within 30 days.