Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is being investigated by a Utah county prosecutor in relation to so-called “pay-to-play” schemes, reports the Associated Press.

Let’s run it back a little: John Shurtleff and John Swallow are former Utah attorneys general who were each arrested in 2014 for allegedly engaging in “a wide-ranging, pay-to-play scheme where they traded favors with businessmen in trouble with regulators during their combined 13 years running the state office.”

From a City Weekly report:

According to charging documents in 2014, both Shurtleff and his heir apparent as attorney general, John Swallow, allegedly had dealings and received donations from indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson. Court documents referenced in both cases detail how Johnson sought Swallow’s help to ward off civil and criminal investigations into his company’s IWorks’ business interests. Johnson went on to implicate Reid in two bribery schemes.

Reid’s alleged bribery scheme was apparently related to online gambling, and a similar pay-to-play setup, according to the City Weekly report:

A transcript of a conversation that Johnson recorded between himself and Shurtleff included allegations about a group of online poker business owners who had funneled $2 million to Reid in 2010 to get Reid to introduce legislation legalizing online poker. According to a June 6, 2013, AP story, Reid as well as Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., “pursued federal law to legalize Internet poker but ultimately gave up before even introducing the legislation.”

That seems to be the general shape of allegations against Reid: some people who are not Reid mention him as the ultimate recipient of cash changing hands in a bribery scheme. For example:

In charging documents filed in 2014 by Davis County and the Salt Lake County district attorneys, prosecutors laid out a series of email exchanges between Johnson, Swallow and the late Provo payday-loan magnate Richard Rawle. The charging documents allege that Swallow was helping Johnson send funds through Rawle to a contact close to Reid in hopes of securing a meeting with the senator. Johnson claimed he needed Reid’s help to make a Federal Trade Commission case against him disappear. According to court documents, Johnson sent Rawle $250,000, some of which allegedly went to Swallow.

It could be that Reid is a corrupt scumbag—he is, after all, a U.S. Senator—or it could just be that his name was used to provide juice to a scheme being run by relative small-timers. The allegations were reportedly investigated by officials at the Justice Department, who ultimately declined to file charges and closed their investigation in 2013.

That hasn’t stopped one eager county prosecutor from launching his own investigation. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, a Republican, says “information from witnesses in the attorneys general case” has led him to have a look at the allegations related to Reid, in case Reid is, in fact, a corrupt scumbag.

The issue now, and part of the reason why Rawlings took his investigation public, is a reported conflict between his investigation and federal authorities over information gathered in the DOJ investigation:

Rawlings’ admission that he is now officially investigating Reid comes after Rawlings’ recent attempts to force the Department of Justice to hand off evidence the FBI and other federal agencies gathered in other investigations. Targets of those investigations included Johnson, Shurtleff and Swallow.

Rawlings wants to know what the feds did—or did not do—to trace the money that Johnson allegedly gave to Rawle.

The City Weekly report is full of juicy details. Shurtleff has reportedly alluded to his own participation in the federal investigation as a confidential informant, and has taken the rare step, for a defendant, of supporting the prosecutor’s efforts to obtain evidence from the DOJ, presumably because he believes whatever the feds are holding onto will ultimately exonerate him.

Back to Reid: his camp is pulling the usual “it’s all politics” routine:

Reid, who hasn’t been charged, fired back at Rawlings in a statement from his spokeswoman Kristen Orthman. She said Rawlings is using “Sen. Reid’s name to generate attention to himself and advance his political career, so every few months he seeks headlines by floating the same unsubstantiated allegations.”

They say “where there’s smoke, there’s a fire,” but who the hell knows, anymore. Could be smoke, could be fire, could be nothing but hot air. Both Shurtleff and Swallow have pled not guilty to charges related to the alleged scheme, and both have trials scheduled for next year.

[Associated Press] [City Weekly]

Image via AP