Attorney General Paul Van Dam will not follow through with his public charges against former judge and now-attorney general candidate Scott Daniels by filing a formal complaint with the Utah State Bar.
Daniels, who faces a Democratic primary Tuesday against Utah Solicitor General Jan Graham, said the allegations that he politicked from the bench could cost him the race."I found out politics is a dirtier business than I thought," said Daniels, who sat on the 3rd District Court bench for 10 years before stepping down last April to run.
"I might lose the election because of this. Who knows," Daniels said. "Sometimes when people start getting involved in negative campaigning, it turns around and bites them.
"That may happen here if people connect this with Jan," he said. Graham has been endorsed by Van Dam, who is not seeking a second term. She has said she was not involved in making the allegations.
Daniels has acknowledged attending several Democratic Party fund-raisers while a judge, but insists he did nothing wrong. "The reason I went was that I'm dating someone who's politically active and she asked me to go," he said.
"It's no secret I attended these. They're public events. There's lots of people there. There's nothing sneaky about it," Daniels said. "No one has ever charged it affected how I ruled on anything."
Van Dam said he was not sorry he made a letter public that he had written to Daniels accusing the former judge of violating the state code of judicial conduct by attending political events while on the bench.
"I did what I did out of the dictates of my conscience," Van Dam said late Wednesday after the bar declined to begin an investigation after receiving a copy of the letter because it was not a notarized complaint.
Van Dam had said he would seek a bar investigation of the charges when he released his letter last Friday. But a copy of the letter was not sent to the bar until late Tuesday.
When the bar told Van Dam he needed to make a notarized complaint addressed to the bar that specifically requested an investigation, the attorney general said he decided not to continue pressing for bar action.
"I've said my piece. I've expressed my concern. I don't want to get any further into this," Van Dam said. "I'm a little tired of being the Lone Ranger."
Van Dam, the only Democrat who currently holds a statewide office, was slammed earlier this week by party leaders for what they termed negative campaign tactics aimed at helping Graham.
The attorney general suggested that Daniels himself should ask the bar to investigate.
"I think it's a relevant and important issue to be resolved. The gentleman can stand up and give an answer to the allegations. I haven't heard any response except that when he's asked out on a date, he goes," Van Dam said.
Daniels, however, said he won't consider whether to ask the bar to look into the issue until after next Tuesday's election. He said other judges have interpreted the code of judicial conduct differently.
"Other judges would say, `I don't think that's OK to go to those things,' and I would say, `I do,' and we'd argue," Daniels said. "There's disagreement about how to interpret the rules."
The portion of the code in question prohibits judges from attending "political gatherings or purchasing tickets for political party dinners or other functions."
Daniels said he carefully considered how he would interpret that rule when he became a judge since many of his friends are politically active.
"You need to decide what accommodations you're going to make to follow the spirit and the intent of the rules and still have an ordinary life," Daniels said.
He said he probably wouldn't have attended any political events had he known the effect his being there would have. "I feel real bad about my reputation. My mother called me and asked if I was going to be disbarred.
"You spend 10 years trying to develop a reputation for unquestioned integrity and it goes out the window with one press conference. Of course there's bitterness," Daniels said.