WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) rubs his eyes during the counting of the Electorial College votes from the 50 states in the House of Representatives chamber at the U.S. Captiol January 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)
A Utah businessman is rocking both state and national politics after claiming Utah Attorney General John Swallow helped him broker a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make a federal investigation into his company quietly disappear, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Jeremy Johnson was allegedly told that the price would be $600,000, and claims to have made an initial payment of $250,000 when he was slapped with a federal lawsuit. Now he says he wants his money back.
The Salt Lake Tribune points out that Johnson has no way of knowing whether the funds actually made it to Reid, even if he did make a massive payment to Reid's alleged intermediary.
The Salt Lake Tribune continues, explaining how the bribe supposedly came to be in 2010:
At the time, Johnson was largely known in Utah as a wealthy philanthropist who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferry supplies into Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Then, with the FTC investigation continuing, Johnson said Swallow suggested Reid could make problems with regulators go away — for a price.
"I said, ‘OK, what do I need to do?’ He’s like, ‘OK, it costs money,’ " Johnson said, who claimed Swallow was adamant he make a deal.
"I think he told me, ‘Richard Rawle has a connection with Harry Reid,’ " Johnson said.
He said Swallow at first wanted $2 million to enlist Reid’s help. But [his company] I Works was no longer profitable and he did not have the money, Johnson said, so they eventually agreed on $300,000 upfront and $300,000 later.
Swallow put Johnson in contact with Rawle, whose company has operations in Nevada...
Rawle, who died of cancer last month, had contributed to Reid’s 2010 re-election bid and later bragged to Johnson that the Nevada Democrat helped him delay new federal payday-loan regulations, Johnson said.
On Sept. 29, 2010, Swallow sent an email to Johnson with the subject line "Mtg. with Harry Reid’s contact."
"Richard [Rawle] is traveling to LV tomorrow and will be able to contact this person, who he has a very good relationship with. He needs a brief narrative of what is going on and what you want to happen. I don’t know the cost, but it probably won’t be cheap."
On Oct. 7, Johnson emailed Rawle, insisting there was "rock solid proof" the FTC allegations against I Works were false. "We will do whatever it take[s] to get Senator Reid on our side and hopefully you can help make it happen. Let me know."
Johnson spent 96 days in jail and has released a number of emails and statements seemingly corroborating parts of his story. However, Swallow insists that Johnson is making "false and defamatory accusations" and that any role he may have played was merely for lobbying purposes.
"There’s nothing wrong with that," Swallow stated. "As long as I’m not interfering with a government agency as a government official, there’s nothing wrong with me being involved."
But Johnson told a judge he's felt guilty about the situation from the start: "The truth is the worst thing I think I’ve done was I paid money knowing it was going to influence Harry Reid...So I’ve felt all along that I’ve committed bribery of some sort there."
Though the connection to Reid remains unverified, some are remembering how Reid claimed on the Senate floor that Mitt Romney hadn't paid his taxes for ten years based on far less evidence.
A Las Vegas Review-Journal blog jokes about how Reid might address the situation, if looking in from the outside:
I have a "source" that says that Harry Reid takes bribes all the time. In fact, if you want anything done out of his office, you must come with a suitcase of cash just to get an audience. That's how he's gotten so rich on a senator's salary. He stashes his money in an offshore bank account. And, as a sidebar for Salt Lake church execs, he hasn't tithed on that bribe money.
Senator Harry Reid's office has declined to comment.
Click here to read the entire Salt Lake Tribune article.
This post has been updated.