SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson admitted to state investigators that he funneled $50,000 of his own money in campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Mike Lee's successful 2010 Senate campaign, according to court documents made public Wednesday.
Such veiled donations violate federal election laws, which cap contributions from individuals to candidates at $2,600 per election.
Johnson said he was heeding a request from John Swallow, a deputy attorney general at the time, when he wrote checks to other people who then donated to Lee's campaign.
The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the story.
In a statement Thursday, Lee's office said neither the senator nor his staffers knew of any such contributions.
In December, Swallow stepped down from his post as Utah attorney general, citing a toll on his family after months of allegations of misconduct.
The newly unsealed court documents relate to an ongoing criminal investigation by two county prosecutors of Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff. Both men have denied wrongdoing, and neither of them has been charged with any crimes.
Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, FBI agents and the public safety department are conducting the probe.
Messages left Thursday for Johnson's and Swallow's attorneys weren't immediately returned to The Associated Press.
According to the documents, Johnson told investigators that in 2010 he collected the same kind of donations for then-Attorney General Shurtleff as he did for Lee, also at Swallow's request. Shurtleff was considering a run for U.S. Senate.
They include email correspondence wherein Johnson promised $100,000 before Shurtleff abandoned the campaign, citing concern for his daughter's health.
Shurtleff on Thursday said he had no comment on the allegations. He told the Tribune in a Wednesday text message, "I would never solicit nor accept 'straw' donations to any campaign."
Johnson has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges accusing him of using Internet-based businesses to fraudulently bill hundreds of thousands of people. He has said Swallow helped orchestrate plans to aid the embattled St. George businessman in fighting a federal investigation of his company, I Works.
The documents released Wednesday supported a search warrant in the criminal investigation of Swallow. They contain emails on the Google account of Swallow's 2012 campaign manager.
In one email, Swallow said some of the donors' checks to Shurtleff's campaign bounced because they were cashed before the donors could deposit the checks from Johnson.
"I am really sorry about the checks. I will get it fixed ASAP!" Johnson replied. "Let me know whose bounced. I was in a mad rush to get those so maybe I pushed a few people too hard."
Last year, Swallow came before the Utah State Bar in two cases. The state bar in March announced it has been investigating Swallow since allegations against him emerged in the news media starting in January 2013.