In 1980, the FBI set up a sting operation in a hotel near New York’s JFK Airport. The agency hired a former con man to act as a Middle East oil sheik, giving handouts for political favors. He secretly videotaped everything.
“In this town, money talks and bulls–t walks,” explained former U.S. Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers of Philadelphia during that covert operation. He accepted an envelope full of money in exchange for his political influence in the sting that brought down his career as well as those of several other Philadelphia politicians.
The sordid tale of abuse of power, known as Abscam, became one of the biggest congressional scandals of American politics. Filmmaker David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) plans to make it into a movie starring the “Silver Linings” pair Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (who won an Academy Award for her role as the troubled widow of a Philadelphia cop).
However, the city of Philadelphia will likely not star, as it did in “Silver Linings.” The state of Pennsylvania will not offer the filmmakers tax credits to the tune of $4 million as requested. The state has an annual film tax credit cap of $60 million, and it has already reached that limit.
The state Department of Community and Economic Development did offer the filmmakers a partial tax credit, conditional on future budget negotiations.The filmmakers declined the offer.
“A conditional commitment means they will conditionally make a movie, meaning they won’t,” said Sharon Pinkenson of the Philadelphia Film Office. “If you’re a financier of any business, you don’t want to hear you’re going to have conditional financing. You can’t pull the trigger on ‘maybe.'”
New York State’s cap on film tax credits is seven times that of Pennsylvania’s. The production of the yet-untitled Abscam movie has been moved to Massachusetts, which has no cap at all.