Saturday, January 02, 2016
Roberts: APS shows who runs this state
Don Brandt (Photo: AZR)
So, Arizona Public Service has decided to flex its considerable muscle (again, that is) and reject a regulator’s order to disclose how much it spent to stack the Arizona Corporation Commission with friendly faces.
“Compelled disclosure about political contributions that APS or its affiliates may have made out of shareholder profits would go beyond what is required of all corporations under Arizona campaign finance laws, and would impinge on APS’s First Amendment rights,” APS/Pinnacle West CEO Don Brandt wrote, in a three paragraph blow-off to Commissioner Bob Burns.
Never mind that the Supreme Court justice who wrote the decision that allows APS to spend money on an independent political campaign actually contemplated that disclosure of such spending woujld occur.
Never mind the state Constitution, which says commissioners “shall have the power to inspect and investigate the property, books, papers, business, methods, and affairs of any corporation whose stock shall be offered for sale to the public, and of any public service corporation doing business within the state.”
Or state law, which says commissioners “may, at any time, inspect the accounts, books, papers and documents of any public service corporation.”
Brandt is thumbing his nose at the law because he knows no one in a position of authority will do anything about it.
APS refuses request to disclose political contributions
Certainly not the five-member commission. Two of them, Doug Little and Tom Forese, are widely believed to have been elected with $3.2 million worth of secret help from APS. One, Bob Stump, has been fighting all year to keep secret the texts he was sending during last year’s campaign – texts that went to an APS official, a dark money group believed to have been funded by APS and to Forese, Little and their campaign manager, Alan Heywood.
That leaves the new guy, former House Speaker Andy Tobin, appointed to the Corporation Commission by Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday to fill Susan Bitter Smith’s seat after she resigned earlier this month. Tobin likely has no great love for APS, given its $10,000 in support last year for Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick over him, but would he risk running afoul of the governor? Not likely.
Then there is Burns – the only commissioner thus far willing to ask questions about whether APS secretly spent millions to in essence buy a couple of seats on the commission that regulates utilities. And it took him most of the year to even ask the question.
Absent Burns filing a lawsuit, I don’t see this toothless commission taking a bite out of APS for thumbing its nose at the law. And at you and me.
OK, so maybe Ducey will intervene? Not likely. APS parent Pinnacle West Capital Corp., spent at least $55,500 to get Ducey elected last year. That’s that we know of. Who knows how much of the $3 million in dark money spent to get Ducey elected might have come from APS/Pinnacle West? Coincidentially, I’m sure, Brandt was one of five people to serve on Ducey’s Inaugural Committee.
So how about Attorney General Mark Brnovich? Might he intervene in an effort to enforce the law? While I’d like to think he would, Brnovich enjoyed at least $450,000 worth of campaign support from Pinnacle West.
The Legislature? Oh, come on….
APS said no to opening its books not because it has the legal right to do so but because it has a political muscle to do so.
Such is the state of the state of Arizona as a new year dawns.