Why is Harry Reid fighting with a Utah state prosecutor?

Utah has had several high-profile investigations on corruption. The state-level cases are now leading to investigations at the federal level. 

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. leaves a weekly Democratic policy luncheon, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. He has been accused but not charged of being involved in a corruption case in Utah.

Attorneys on opposite sides of a contentious, years-long investigation into scandals involving two Utah attorneys general agree on one thing – the feds should show their hand. 

For their part, federal Department of Justice investigators, working on a case that includes Utah officials, US senators, and a secretly-taped conversation in a Krispy Kreme donut shop, have filed no charges.

Troy Rawlings, a Utah state prosecutor, is investigating Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada in connection to a pay-for-play scandal involving two former Utah attorneys general. Mr. Rawlings has challenged Senator Reid to release evidence that could clear his name.

Senator Reid has not been charged with any crime. His spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said in a statement Mr. Rawlings uses "Sen. Reid's name to generate attention to himself and advance his political career, so every few months he seeks headlines by floating the same unsubstantiated allegations," the AP reported.

Rawlings responded that Reid could be innocent, but his information could also aid a case against Utah's former attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, The Washington Times has reported.

"I have no political career," Rawlings told The Washington Times. "This is not a PR game."

Rawlings is specifically responsible for gathering evidence on the case against Mr. Shurtleff, who, along with his successor John Swallow, is being prosecuted at the state level on corruption charges. Utah began prosecuting the men after Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson accused them of involvement in bribery and illegal campaign donations, eventually providing evidence from a secretly taped conversation at a Krispy Kreme donut shop, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.  

Both the prosecuting and defense teams on Shurtleff's case have agreed on one issue – they want the federal government to release information from a 2013 investigation about whether they traced a bribe to Reid's office, the Salt Lake City Weekly reported. Given that the years-long investigation has become a political scandal in Utah, with the attorneys themselves trading tense words at times, the unity of purpose is surprising to many.  

"The hurdles faced by the Utah investigators are a case study of how difficult it’s become to figure out where political candidates get their money," Karen Weise wrote for Bloomberg, suggesting that while the investigation started in Utah, the problem of corrupt campaign donations could be more widespread.

Shurtleff's attorneys called the Justice Department's refusal to release information about their investigation in 2013 "a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse," according to the Salt Lake City Weekly.

Reid's name became connected with the investigation in 2013, the same year Mr. Swallow resigned as attorney general in the vain hope of stopping an investigation by the Utah legislature, KSL News reported. At that time, the Utah House of Representatives was investigating Swallow's conduct as attorney general as well as his predecessor, Shurtleff.

Reid and Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah have also been accused in a lawsuit of taking questionable campaign donations, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The two attorneys general have pleaded not guilty, and the businessman connected with the case has been indicted, the Deseret News reported.

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