John Shadegg vows to follow law on screening Maricopa County records for Arizona Senate

Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., of the 3rd Congressional District, rallies supporters for Republicans and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at an election night rally Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, in Phoenix.
Ronald J. Hansen
Arizona Republic

After months of legal battles, the Republican-controlled state Senate and the GOP-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors found one man they both trust with sensitive information: former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg.

The eight-term Republican who retired from Congress in 2011 and works as a lawyer and lobbyist has agreed to serve as the special master to review the county's routers and logs showing internet activity.

The material is part of the Senate's ongoing review of the county's election ballots. His involvement in screening the county's records for the Senate ends a standoff that threatened state-controlled funding to the county.   

Shadegg's unchallenged record as a conservative and his background decades ago with the state's Attorney General's Office under Republican Bob Corbin left him as a respected figure both sides could accept to screen the routers and logs. He has worked on election law legal matters before and after his tenure in Congress.

For his part, Shadegg on Monday promised an unbiased review of what is legally permitted to be released.

"Attorney General Corbin had a reputation that was extremely well-known, summarized in five words: The law is the law," Shadegg said in an interview.

"He was scrupulous about applying it the way it was written without regard to its impact, no matter what the politics were. I learned that standard from him. That's the standard I intend to apply here.

"In my view, you don't have a democracy if you can't trust the election process."

From 1984 until 1991, Shadegg was a special assistant attorney general in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office under Corbin. It was a top-level position whose duties included lobbying the Legislature.

"I see this as a public service responsibility," Shadegg said of serving as special master. "Quite frankly, I was humbled and honored that both sides said, 'Yeah, he's a straight-up guy.'"

The Senate views the records as a key to understanding whether the county's elections machines were connected to the internet. The county has said the machines were not, and a pair of independent audits by accredited firms reached the same conclusion.

The county wanted to withhold the routers and internet logs in part because of security concerns over sensitive information that doesn't involve the elections department.

The county has handed over election ballots, voting machines and other information the Senate subpoenaed for its review. 

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich warned last month he would withhold state funding to the county if the supervisors didn't fully comply with Senate subpoenas by Sept. 27.

The county estimated it would've had to cut 42% of its operating budget — including public safety, public health, courts, and elections — if it didn't comply.

It forced the county and the Senate to look to end their deadlock on the records. In Shadegg, they turn to someone whose lineage should put Republicans at ease. 

Shadegg's father, Stephen Shadegg, managed four Senate campaigns of former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., and wrote speeches and a syndicated column for him as well.

In Congress, John Shadegg rose to head the Republican Study Committee, a socially and fiscally conservative caucus with ties to the establishment GOP from 2001 to 2003. 

After the 2004 elections, his colleagues elected him the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, making him the No. 5-ranking member of the GOP.

In early 2006, he sought to become the House majority leader. He finished third in the first balloting and his supporters switched to Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who eventually won the post. 

After the 2006 midterms, in which Republicans lost their House majority after 12 years, Shadegg ran for and lost a bid for House minority whip. 

He reluctantly put off retirement in the 2008 elections, before leaving office after the 2010 elections. 

His clients since leaving Congress have ranged from Facebook to Hickman’s Egg Ranch. Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman is listed as a vice president of the egg business.

Shadegg appeared at a Nov. 5 event with Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward and U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., as well as David Bossie, a former deputy campaign manager for President Donald Trump. That event urged the counting of legal ballots and investigation of any legitimate allegations of wrongdoing.

Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and U.S. Representative Debbie Lesko spoke to supporters at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters Nov. 5, 2020.

Under the agreement formalized Friday, Shadegg will have the "sole authority" to hire one to three computer technology experts to assist him.

The questions are limited to the county's routers and logs in relation to the election.

Non-public information about the Sheriff's Office or law enforcement, courts and personal identifying information will not be provided.

The county will pay for the cost of the special master.

Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at ronald.hansen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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