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Protesters at Capitol want Attorney General John Swallow out

SALT LAKE CITY — Naomi Franklin sat perched on the edge of a pillar in the Utah state Capitol rotunda on the outskirts of a group of protesters. She was holding her cane in one hand and a sign that said "Swallow sticks in the craw" in the other.

"It speaks for itself, doesn't it?" she said. "Corruption in our government is an overwhelming misery."

About 30 people showed up to the event billed as an anti-corruption rally Wednesday organized by the Alliance for a Better Utah to urge legislators to take action amid recent allegations against Attorney General John Swallow.

The protest came as Republican legislators began a caucus to consider the political future of Swallow.

Protesters were chanting,"Restore the public's trust," and held signs that said "AG's ethics are hard to Swallow," "Swallow, do something ethical for a change, and resign," and a quote from Abraham Lincoln that said "If you want to test a man's character, give him power."

Shortly after the protest, the House Republicans voted in their caucus to create a committee to investigate Swallow.

Issac Holyoak with the Alliance for a Better Utah, described as an education and advocacy organization promoting progressive ideas, sponsored the rally to tell legislators: "John Swallow's unwillingness to act makes it incumbent upon them to act."

He called on legislators to launch a formal investigation or impeach Swallow.

Jenn Gonnelly, with the League of Women Voters, was invited to address the crowd. She said she hoped the rally would piqué the interest of legislators and help them "realize things are broken."

She said she wants them to "start restoring the public trust, start letting people know that they’re hearing them and that they want to be an example."

TJ Ellerbeck, president of the Young Democrats of Utah, was also invited to attend and said he wants Swallow to "hit the road."

Ellerbeck referred to Gov. Gary Herbert's statement when the governor said if Swallow was his employee he would not keep him on the job. "(Swallow's) our employee, and today is his performance review," Ellerbeck said.

He said he'd like to say he's surprised about the allegations, but he's not, and that it's hard to get people, particularly the younger generation, involved "especially with this kind of corruption."

Swallow is the subject of a federal investigation and complaints filed with the Utah State Bar and the elections office.

Ryan Pleune, who attended the rally, said the allegations against Swallow are just the "tip of the iceberg."

"Legislatures at a state level and at a federal level do not seem to be doing a very good job of reaching out and listening to people," Pleune said. "They’re reaching out and listening to people with lots of money, and that’s what the Swallow corruption represents."

Holyoak said he would have liked to see 10,000 people show up at the rally but that Utahns "don't have a good reason to show up."

He said, "Utahns are frustrated, they're disgruntled," and people who are otherwise active and engaged often don't get involved in the political process.