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Sean Reyes sues attorney general opponent John Swallow for defamation

Poll shows Swallow with substantial lead

Copyright 2012, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Republican candidate for Utah attorney general filed a lawsuit Friday against his opponent and others for defamation, saying recent advertisements paint him in a false light.

Sean Reyes is pointing at It's Now or Never Inc., a Nevada-based super PAC that funded the ads, as well as John Swallow and members of Swallow's election campaign. Reyes alleges the two groups have "close ties" and "worked in concert" to damage his reputation with potential voters, businesses and the general public, according to the lawsuit filed in 3rd District Court.

Swallow called the suit "frivolous," saying "desperate candidates do desperate things."

A new Deseret News/KSL TV poll shows Swallow is leading the primary contest with 52 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him, compared to 24 percent who said they would vote for Reyes. Close to one-quarter of respondents, however, said they were unsure whom they would vote for.

The poll was conducted June 15-21 by Dan Jones & Associates of registered voters who said they plan to vote in Tuesday's GOP primary election. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.

The ads, which point to an ethical question dealing with Reyes' campaign fundraising — which has since been investigated and dismissed — and a 1993 incident of alleged road rage, have popped up on various radio and TV stations statewide since June 14.

Documents filed with the Utah Office of Lieutenant Governor state the political action committee spent $140,000 in the state in opposition to Reyes.

“I imagine many people will be surprised by the size of the lead because it’s been such a hotly contested race,” pollster Dan Jones said of the gap between Swallow and Reyes. “But it’s been such a negative race for such a prominent office. That bothers a lot of people, I think.”

Reyes claims that the phrases and words used in the ads, such as "under the table," "misreported," "caught," "skirting," and "bragging about recklessly committing road rage," are false and defamatory and are political antics trying to influence voters just days before Tuesday's primary.

"I am confident over the next few days that the public will come to learn and understand just how untruthful these ads are and take the time to understand ‘the real me’ through my website, campaign team and extensive volunteer network," Reyes said.

Swallow said Friday that he is working with his own legal counsel to file a defamation suit against UTE PAC, a super PAC run by Democrats that sent out 30,000 mailers mid-week attacking his campaign.

UTE PAC treasurer Dmitri Moumoulidis, of Salt Lake, said he thinks the threat of a lawsuit is a "posturing move" by Swallow. His PAC spent about $5,000 on the mailers and has been transparent about each transaction.

Jones said Swallow, who has run for Congress, also benefits from name recognition. He said the latest negative advertising in the race may have some impact, but “it would be very difficult for Mr. Swallow to lose the race.”

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche