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Will Brad Wilson’s Legal Woes Impact His Bid for U.S. Senate?

Wilson denies all accusations that his business practices included fraud and any political favors.

Former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, now a candidate for one of Utah’s U.S. Senate seats, finds himself embroiled in a sticky legal challenge. The lawsuit, brought forward by the former chief financial officer of Wilson's company, accuses him of fraud and breach of contract—namely, Wilson’s alleged refusal to pay interest on a $430,000 loan. It also claims that Wilson became a lawmaker so he could pursue “sweetheart deals… by leveraging his position in the Utah House of Representatives."

The 23-page complaint attests that Wilson asked David Peterson join Destination Homes after being invited to a ski resort at a time when he company was "in bad financial condition," and in which Wilson was “spending large amounts of company money to make Brad Wilson appear successful by buying luxury cars, as he wanted to run for" the House.

Wilson has denied all accusations and called Peterson “a disgruntled former employee” who endeavors to “hurt his political campaign.” While the lawsuit has not yet gone to trial, and Wilson remains innocent until proven guilty, the allegations of shady business dealings has many Utahns questioning Wilson’s suitability for higher office.

One of the more interesting accusations in the suit involves Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who allegedly received a loan from Brad Wilson which was later forgiven—the implication being that Bell would be put in a position to do political favors for Wilson. Bell denied this, but acknowledged that Wilson’s company did buy real estate from him in 2006.

“In 2006 Brad’s company agreed to buy several lots from my company,” Bell said. “When the financial crisis hit in 2008, it froze credit markets and made these deals unworkable. We returned part of their deposit, and we mutually agreed to resolve all claims and go our separate ways.”

There is little doubt Wilson has leveraged his experience in the real estate business to benefit his political career. During his tenure as a state lawmaker, he was instrumental in passing legislation to create Housing Transit Reinvestment Zones, which itself created lucrative tax incentives for transit-oriented development projects. Wilson made a private land investment that now stands to benefit from the legislation he oversaw, according to the Utah Investigative Journalism Project’s Eric S. Peterson.

“Wilson’s investment did not [directly] receive a direct tax incentive but would benefit from the economic ripple effects of having land so close to a major development that would receive an incentive,” writes Peterson. “It’s an example of how closely aligned state leaders and the businesses that make up Utah’s strong developer base can be.”

Peterson goes on to report that Wilson’s federal campaign collected between $100,000 and $1 million in rents from South Station Apartments, the entity that jointly owns property adjacent to the 11 acres purchased by Wilson, in 2023. 

“He and his partners are currently finishing construction on the second half of their parcel there,” concludes Peterson.

Brad Wilson is unquestionably a savvy businessman and seasoned state legislator who has used his keen acumen in both realms to advance his and his partners' interests. Those accomplishments are not without their merits. But regardless of the lawsuit's outcome, one must ask: what does Wilson hope to accomplish on the national stage?


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