SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow has asked a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit accusing him and an imprisoned businessman of illegally funneling donations to the campaigns of Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and others.
Swallow’s lawyers also asked a federal judge Tuesday in Salt Lake City to invalidate the rule he’s accused of breaking, arguing it violates free speech.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson had not yet ruled on the requests.
The Federal Election Commission sued Swallow and businessman Jeremy Johnson, alleging the former attorney general helped Johnson skirt federal laws by giving money to friends and employees who then donated $170,000 to political campaigns.
The lawsuit says money also went to former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Swallow and Johnson have denied the claims in the lawsuit.
Allen Dickerson, a lawyer with the Virginia-based Institute for Free Speech, argued that the election rule doesn’t allow someone to be held legally responsible for helping another person break laws.
FEC attorney Sana Chaudhry disagreed, saying the rule is part of the FEC’s broad authority to regulate elections.
Chaudhry said Swallow instructed Johnson about how to get around election laws limiting an individual donor from giving more than $2,400.
The lawsuit could leave Johnson and Swallow facing thousands of dollars in fines if the judge sides with the FEC.
Swallow, who is being aided by a group pushing to undo campaign finance laws, resigned from the job as Utah’s top lawman in 2013 amid allegations of bribery and corruption that emerged soon after he took office.
A jury found him not guilty of nine crimes, including bribery, obstruction of justice and evidence tampering. He’s now suing the state for legal costs.
Johnson is serving a federal prison sentence after being convicted in 2016 of lying to banks. He’s appealing that case.