The Arizona Corporation Commission is the Arizona public utilities commission. Arizona Public Service (APS) is a public utility company.
Surprise surprise, Corp Comm messages to APS are gone
Arizona Republic, June 17, 2015
By Laurie Roberts
So a state official is regularly sending text messages to an executive of a utility that he regulates. He then routinely deletes the text messages, despite the fact that such communications are public record.
And when questions arise about the content of those messages, we are told he’s thrown away his cell phone. His state-supplied cell phone.
Convenient, isn’t it?
If you’re not following the saga of the Arizona Corporation Commission and its rather cozy relationship with Arizona Public Service, then don’t be surprised to wake up one day be surprised to see that your electric bill has shot up like a Phoenix thermometer on a June afternoon.
You already know much of this stunning story, how APS is widely believed to have secretly funneled several million dollars into a 2014 campaign to get a pair of utility-friend candidates elected to the commission that sets electric rates – secret funding that’s entirely legal and absolutely odiferous.
How cagey APS executives won’t say that they did it and won’t say that they didn’t do it.
How corporation commissioners won’t force the utility to open its books to see how its spending ratepayer money, even though it would take just one of the five commissioners to issue such an order.
You may also know that Checks and Balances Project — a public watchdog blog that advocates for clean energy policies and is largely funded by a dark-money non-profit known as Renew American Prosperity — has obtained cell phone logs that call into question whether Commissioner Bob Stump acted as a go-between last year in order to coordinate activities between APS and its favored candidates, Tom Forese and Doug Little.
According to the logs, Stump was madly texting Forese and Little during the run-up to last year’s election, along with an APS executive and the head of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which spent nearly $450,000 on an independent dark-money campaign aimed at getting the pair elected to the commission that regulates utilities. APS is widely believed to have supplied funding to the Free Enterprise Club and a second dark-money group in order to secure the election of Forese and Little.
In all, the logs show Stump sent 56 emails to Barbara Lockwood, an APS executive, between June and September and 46 to Mussi. He sent about 180 to Forese and Little, who enjoyed $3.2 million in dark money support from AzFEC and that second dark-money group, Save Our Future Now.
Stump has said there’s nothing to see here, that his calls to Lockwood were unrelated to Forese and Little’s campaign and that Mussi is an old friend. It seems Stump was merely trying to coordinate a trip to the symphony when he called Mussi 46 times during the campaign season.
Meanwhile, the commission has said there’s nothing to see here because Stump also sent texts to rooftop solar executives.
Of course, whenever a public official says there’s nothing to see, it behooves those who are doing the looking to dig a little deeper. So the folks at Checks and Balances, skeptics that they are, have demanded that the Corporation Commission turn over Stump’s text messages or, in the alternative, to secure Stump’s phone so that commission staff can try to retrieve the deleted messages.
Now the commission has informed Checks and Balances that Stump routinely deleted all of his text messages and then deleted the state-issued phone, by disposing of it.
According to the Arizona Capitol Times, the commission’s attorney, David Cantelme, sent a letter to Checks and Balances, informing the non-profit that Stump deleted commission-related texts from his commission-issued phone “consistent with Arizona law and applicable document-retention protocols.”
I’m not sure how Cantelme can say that Stump was OK to delete those messages, given that the lawyer admits that he never actually saw what was in those messages.
He also didn’t explain why Stump curiously didn’t return his state-issued phone rather than disposing of it himself. Cantelme said the phone “had passed into obsolescence.”
So, too, apparently has the idea of a Corporation Commission that actually regulates utilities.
Posted under Fair Use Rules.