Two senior Republican Utah state senators, Lyle Hillyard and John Valentine, have raised concerns about the competency, disarray, big losses, and missteps of the Utah Attorney General's Office. However, during the 12 years that Republican Mark Shurtleff served as Attorney General, these same legislators, along with their Republican and Democrat counterparts, said nothing in spite of red flags popping up everywhere.
Interestingly, Utah legislators are not the only ones who were willing to overlook Shurtleff's questionable activities. The National Immigration Forum (NIF) worked closely with Shurtleff to promote amnesty for illegal aliens during the time that he was still serving as Utah's Attorney General. Once Shurtleff left office, the NIF appointed Shurtleff to its board of directors, where he continues to serve as of this writing. And the NIF continues to use Shurtleff as a high-profile "conservative" spokesperson for amnesty.
Meanwhile, back in Utah, Shurtleff's hand-picked successor, John Swallow, resigned as Attorney General when threatened with impeachment for activities that included Shurtleff. In addition, the man known as Shurtleff's "fixer", Tim Lawson, was indicted on multiple felony charges, leading to speculation that he will be pressured to assist prosecutors in their ongoing investigations of Shurtleff and Swallow. And at least one news outlet now suggests that Shurtleff could be facing charges that include tampering with evidence, communications fraud, bribery to prevent criminal prosecution, and retaliation against a witness.
The sudden legislative concern over the management of the Attorney General's office, coupled with the ongoing investigations into Shurtleff and Swallow and Shurtleff's role with the NIF raise at least three major questions plus of host of other related ones.
First, did Mark Shurtleff during his 12-year tenure as Utah Attorney General deliberately and systematically weaken the Utah Attorney General's Office by bullying or sidelining staff attorneys in order to protect those who purchased influence or whom he personally favored, including illegal aliens?
Second, where was the Utah legislature's oversight of the Attorney General's Office during Shurtleff's 12-year reign?
Third, will the National Immigration Forum and others continue their association with Mark Shurtleff?
The remainder of this piece looks at these and the additional questions that they raise.
Question 1. Did Mark Shurtleff deliberately and systematically weaken the Utah Attorney General's Office and protect those whom he personally favored? For example:
- Why did Richard Hamp, a leading expert and prosecutor on illegal alien-driven child identity theft, leave the Utah Attorney General's office after being assigned other duties? Could it be because Hamp was too effective? Could it have anything to do with Shurtleff's outspoken support of illegal aliens and his efforts to protect them from criminal prosecution for stealing the identities of thousands of Utah children?
- Why did Shurtleff order staff attorney Charlene Barlow to offer a lenient plea deal that was so bad she threatened to resign? Why did Shurtleff have Barlow's boss offer the deal (which was ultimately rejected by the judge in the case)? Finally, what message did this send to other staff attorneys?
- Why did Shurtleff react so vehemently to an amicus brief filed by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) in a lawsuit challenging Utah's immigration enforcement act (HB497) and why did he block Republican lawmakers from having attorney Sean Reyes represent them without charge in the case? Was it because, as Michael Hethmon of IRLI wrote: "We suspect Mr. Shurtleff would personally be glad to see the law nullified...." (Note: Following Shurtleff's hand-picked successor's resignation, Reyes was appointed Utah Attorney General late last month.)
- Why was the Utah Attorney General's office so unprepared to defend a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage in Utah as being between one man and one woman? Was it because Shurtleff opposed the amendment from its inception?
- Why did Shurtleff demand that the legislature place a multi-agency strike force with the mission of combatting major felony crimes associated with illegal immigration under his control and why did the legislature remove it from the Department of Public Safety where it was originally slated to go? Was it so Shurtleff could protect the huge numbers of illegal aliens who were committing widespread Social Security fraud, forgery, and felony child identity theft in Utah from arrest and deportation?
- Why did the Utah Attorney General's Office do such a terrible job defending Utah's law against polygamy that even the judge hearing the case commented on it? Was it because Shurtleff had created a culture of incompetence by systematically demeaning and/or purging his office of its best attorneys?
Question 2. Where was the Utah legislature's oversight of the Attorney General's Office during Shurtleff's 12-year reign?
- How many Republican legislators supported Shurtleff's two reelection bids and turned a blind eye to his very questionable actions?
- How many Republican legislators threw their support behind Swallow, who was Shurtleff's hand-picked successor to replace him? How many supported Sean Reyes, Swallow's opponent?
- How many formal oversight hearings of the Attorney General's office did the legislature hold over the 12 years that Shurtleff was in office?
- How many legislative committees served as cheerleaders for Shurtleff and consistently gave him whatever he wanted, including control of the state's immigration strike force and the short-lived Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration?
- Why, when pressured by Shurtleff, did the Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, Becky Lockhart, force Republican legislators to withdraw their acceptance of an offer of pro bono legal assistance by Sean Reyes to help defend Utah's illegal immigration enforcement law?
Question 3. Will the National Immigration Forum and others continue their association with Mark Shurtleff?
- Will the NIF continue to have Shurtleff serve as a high-profile "conservative" spokesperson for immigration reform, to lobby Congress and encourage the Obama administration to turn the pro-amnesty Utah Compact into a National Compact? Or will the NIF ask Shurtleff to resign from its board of directors and delete all record of its association with him?
- Will Shurtleff's troubles negatively impact the Salt Lake Chamber, which praised him "for his legacy and service to our state" and for his "pivotal role for our country in helping to pass landmark immigration reform..."?
- Will the Obama administration turn to someone else to lobby the Mormon Church on immigration reform and will the Mormon Church continue to kowtow to Shurtleff's demands in favor of illegal aliens?