New AZScam Documentary Could Be Used To Train Lawmakers
Thirty years ago, the Arizona legislature was under an extremely dark cloud — one that had nothing to do with any specific legislation or political philosophy. It came to be known as AZScam and snared seven state lawmakers for accepting bribes.
"I know entrapment, and I knew that would be the argument initially. Arguments would be entrapment, 'it's political' — if they were all Democrats, I'm a Republican. If they were all Democrats, they'd claim it's a Republican type of operation to just trap Democrats. It could be potentially racial, if it was minorities only that we were able to capture. And so we were very, very cognizant to show that it was not the idea of law enforcement — you know, we didn't go out there and get them to commit the crime. They came in first."
"There's no one that made those members take that cash. The very premise that somehow none of this would have happened if the county attorney wouldn't have done that — I don't even buy that premise. I think it was happening. But just what happened in an organized law enforcement scale, it was happening one vote at a time. One corruptive act at a time."
The story of AZScam is being newly told in a documentary by filmmaker and Legislative Broadcast Center assistant director Michael Shahin. The film was produced as a teaching tool for current and incoming lawmakers. It features many of the details of how the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office came to work with an FBI informant named Joseph Stedino and how the seven lawmakers in 1991 were caught taking money for possibly voting a particular way.
The Show spoke with Shahin earlier and asked him how, 30 years after the fact, the House decided to move forward with producing a documentary about AZScam.
The Show also talked with current House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who advocated for making the documentary. His time as a lawmaker began soon after AZScam, and he began by talking about what the atmosphere was like as a new legislator following the scandal.