Wanted: lawyer to work for Arizona House of Representatives reeling over a corruption scandal.
Job duties: read 18,000 pages of transcripts, listen to hundreds of tapes and find enough lawmakers not implicated in bribery sting, dubbed Desert Shame, to establish special ethics panel.The hiring of a House special counsel - the Senate already has one - is a first step in lawmakers' efforts to restore confidence in the Legislature. The sting by county proscutors brought indictments last week against seven legislators. This comes on top of ethics complaints against the state's U.S. senators, and not all that long since Gov. Evan Mecham's 1988 impeachment.
"I think it may take many years," said Republican House Majority Leader Mark Killian, reached at his home in Mesa Sunday night.
"I'm just sick right now of this whole process," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Alan Stephens, who was named in a civil racketeering lawsuit stemming from the sting. The Phoenix lawmaker said he is innocent of wrongdoing but fears an indictment.
Both chambers agree they must look into accusations regarding their members and take steps to prevent such problems in the future, such as by improving campaign financing laws.
The most recent trouble in the state Capitol involves seven lawmakers, a justice of the peace, a former state Democratic Party executive director, a former jail guard and five others who are either lobbyists and activists. A Maricopa County grand jury indicted them last week on charges of conspiracy to bribe and launder money.
The 15 also were charged in a civil racketeering lawsuit, and some have had property seized. An eighth lawmaker and a former lawmaker also were named in the civil lawsuit.
The indictment accuses the lawmakers of accepting a total of more than $100,000 from an informant posing as a gaming consultant trying to legalize casino gambling in Arizona.
The four indicted Democrats and three indicted Republicans include the chairmen of the House Ethics and Judiciary committees. Police videotapes of their meetings with a police informant aired repeatedly last week on Phoenix television stations.
Senate Majority Whip Carolyn Walker, accused of receiving more than $25,000 in bribes from the informant, is seen on one tape saying "we all have our prices."
"I sold way too cheap," Rep. Bobby Raymond is heard saying on another tape.
Prosecutors acknowledge the sting pumped tens of thousands of dollars into last fall's election races and might have tilted some outcomes. But they said it was worthwhile because public officials are likely to lose their offices.