SALT LAKE CITY — The Republican candidates for Utah attorney general spent nearly an hour in a debate Tuesday trading the same barbs that have marked their campaigns in recent days.
But as time expired, Sean Reyes took a new shot at John Swallow with an old dart. Swallow, he said, "admitted" to violating federal campaign finance law during his failed 2002 bid for Congress.
"I think it's offensive to accuse me on one hand and then stand there and do the same thing while he knows that he's the one who paid restitution for those violations," Reyes said as the debate on KSL Radio ended.
In response, Swallow said, "I just want to categorically denounce what he said about me."
The Federal Election Commission "fully investigated it. There was nothing to it," Swallow said after the debate. "I think my treasurer who made the mistake paid a little fine."
According to the FEC, Swallow's congressional campaign paid $8,000 in civil penalties for accepting excessive contributions and failing to adequately disclose itemized contributions on financial reports in 2002. Four donors also paid a total of $24,500 in fines.
Swallow narrowly lost that election to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson.
Reyes said he raised the issue Tuesday because he's tired of the Swallow campaign "hammering me" about a campaign finance complaint filed against him earlier this year.
"I've never brought it up because that's not how I want to run this. Now, I can't turn on the radio or TV for 10 minutes without hearing some attack ads by their SuperPAC. So I said, 'Look, what's good for the goose … '"
A Las Vegas-based SuperPAC called It's Now or Never is running ads accusing Reyes of making a secret $5,000 cash contribution to his political consultant.
Reyes explained to the Utah elections office in April that the financial disclosure report mistakenly listed the $5,000 as a contribution when it was a reimbursement for expenses. The elections office did not take any action and closed the matter.
Swallow said the two situations aren't comparable.
"It think the point is he paid $5,000 cash under the table from his campaign account and didn't disclose it and misreported it. That is completely different from my treasurer accepting a little too much money from a donor, publicly, fully disclosed that someone asked a question about," he said. "It didn't even have to be returned. That's how minor it was."
Reyes said the matter was serious and embarrassed the Utah Republican Party and the state. "It may have cost us Matheson's seat for another cycle or two," he said.