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Cheryl Maher says Kevin Garn lied about hot tub contact

Hush money may have violated election laws

SALT LAKE CITY — Cheryl Maher said Friday that Utah House Majority Leader Kevin Garn is lying about having no physical contact with her when they went hot-tubbing in the nude when she was 15 years old.

She also says they had a long-term relationship at that time and contends that he had affairs with others.

Also, Garn may have violated election laws by not disclosing on federal forms that he paid Maher $150,000 in 2002 — the year he ran for Congress — to keep quiet.

"He is not being completely honest," Maher told the Deseret News by telephone from her home in New Hampshire.

Garn confessed to the Legislature on Thursday that the nude hot-tubbing took place in 1985, when Maher was 15 and Garn was 28 and married. But Garn said there was no touching or intercourse involved.

Maher declined to be specific about what happened, but said Garn "likes massage." She said she does not want to talk about specifics because she wants the focus not on Garn's actions but on "the devastation of my life because of sexual abuse that happens to so many." She hopes that by talking, "others will come forward, too."

Later, she sent an e-mail to the Deseret News saying that she was working for Garn at the Pegasus record store he owned in 1985. She also said he had been her LDS Sunday School teacher when she was in fourth grade. She described what she says was a relationship that lasted many months.

"I remember one night before the Pegasus store was having its grand opening, we were working late to get ready, and Kevin was there and kept watching me," she said.

She said on other occasions, Garn would "stare at me and talk to me," and he then started taking her to lunches and shopping.

"Then there was a day when he took me to Salt Lake, and he stopped and got alcohol, and we ended up at this hot-tub place on State Street. I was scared. I said, 'I don't have a suit.' He said, 'You don't need one,' " Maher wrote.

"I remember when we left feeling very weird, and I wasn't sure if I was having an affair or what was going on. I was confused," she said, adding that other employees either asked if they were having an affair or joked that they were.

She said in the telephone interview, "He and I had a relationship for months." She said, "I fell head over heels for him" as he told her how pretty she was. She said she knows of other affairs Garn had. She also wrote, "I did love him. He wrapped me up and infected me."

Maher said she was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in recent years for an extramarital affair and says she is upset that the church, to her knowledge, did not take action against Garn for what she says is abuse that led her into a downward spiral that included drugs and mental health issues.

She said when she found that Garn was running for Congress in 2002, she contacted the press to tell what had happened — and Garn contacted her.

Garn soon paid Maher $150,000 in hush money, which may have been in violation of federal election laws.

Federal law defines a reportable expenditure as "a purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money or anything of value made to influence a federal election."

Even if the expenditure is not paid by the campaign directly, but instead by the candidate or a supporter, laws still generally require disclosure of the spending. Laws also require a declaration of the money spent as a contribution to the campaign.

While not commenting specifically about Garn, Federal Election Commission spokesman Christian Hilland said Friday, "Essentially, whenever a campaign spends money — whether it's permissible or not permissible — it is required to be reported on their FEC report."

Garn did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. However, his wife, Tanya, told the Deseret News that she is sure the payment was made after Garn already had been defeated in the GOP primary that year.

That timing would be evidence that the spending was not intended to influence a campaign — because the campaign had ended — unless such a payment had been promised before the election to ensure silence.

Maher said she cannot remember for sure exactly when money was offered because it was an emotionally difficult time, but she made available e-mails she kept from the period that show Garn's wife and son, before the election, tried to persuade her not to go public.

One from Garn's wife in June 2002 said, "If you really believe that Kevin shouldn't be a congressman, there are other ways of dealing with this instead of playing it out in the newspaper in which my family and I will ultimately suffer."

Garn reported raising $828,000 for his 2002 congressional campaign, with $713,756 (or 86 percent) coming from his own pocket. He reported spending all but $269 of what he raised, according to a final disclosure form he filed in 2003. None of his disclosure forms that year mention the $150,000 in hush money.

Hilland said the FEC investigates whether such non-disclosures amount to a violation either when someone in the public makes a formal complaint or if its own compliance staff finds a potential problem.