PROVO -- Newly sworn in attorney general John Swallow fielded questions about the bribery allegations surrounding him as he spoke to the Utah County Republican Women's group Monday afternoon.
Swallow didn't say much about the allegations against him, but he said he was shocked when a man charged with fraud came forward less than a week after Swallow took office and said Swallow was part of a bribery scheme. He also said he requested an FBI investigation into those accusations, which is ongoing.
"I am confident it will clear my name," Swallow said. "I was disgusted and heartbroken. It is the hardest experience of my life." Swallow also said he was thankful the allegations came forward after he took his oath because he didn't think he could have handled the speculation. Despite the allegations against him Swallow said he won't let it impact his duties to the people of Utah.
"I am doing everything in my power to be where I need to be and do the things I need to do," he said. "I am moving forward and won't let baseless allegations keep me from doing my job and doing what I was elected to do."
In January, Jeremy Johnson, a Utah businessman who is facing federal fraud charges for billing people for millions of dollars of goods and services they didn't order, claimed Swallow arranged a scheme to quash a federal investigation by bribing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Swallow said he hopes people will wait and see the results of the FBI investigation before passing judgment.
Wendy Braithwaite, president of the group, said she had a gut feeling Swallow is innocent.
"I think he is sincere," she said. "People need to wait and see the results of the investigation. I think he has been rushed to judgment but I have faith in him."
"We want to keep him," Diane Dowling said. "He is doing a great job. Unfortunately he has had this controversy but I think he is representing us well."
Swallow spent most of the meeting talking about his goals for his time as attorney general. He said his top three priorities are keeping Utah's children safe, reducing white collar crime and dealing with sovereignty issues plaguing Utah.
Swallow compared the federal government and the state government to his home life. He said he controls the garage and the shed, while his wife controls everything else.
"The federal government, like me, has a limited role, but they are trying to take over everything else," Swallow said. "The federal government is parking cars in the master bedroom and leaking oil in the kitchen. I am doing everything I can as attorney general to preserve freedom of state. We want cars parked in the garage, not the kitchen."
He said 66 percent of Utah's lands are federally owned, which is creating a dependence on the federal government and encroaching on Utah's rights as a state.
"If we can't afford to say no to the federal government, we can't say no," Swallow said. "There is no way we can fund things like education when two-thirds of our lands aren't taxable."
Swallow said if you compare North Dakota to Utah, that state spends $2,300 more per student than the national average, while Utah spends $2,300 less per student than the national average. The difference is North Dakota controls 95 percent of its land on the state level.
Swallow answered questions on everything from health care reform to gay marriage to gun control during the question and answer portion of the meeting.
He said he supports the Second Amendment and the right of people to defend themselves, but said steps must be taken to protect schools and children. He said he wants to create a task force to look a ways to make schools safer including adding second exits to classrooms, making it so classrooms can be locked down if there is an intruder in the school and doing drills that prepare teachers and students for crisis situations.
"I thought he was really good," Braithwaite said. "I like hearing about what is important to them."
Swallow also will be attending the Utah County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday at UVU.