Pinnacle West (APS) ‘dark money’ in Corporation Commission and Attorney General races

For much of this year the Carbon Monopoly, led by APS and its parent company Pinnacle West, have been the source of enormous amounts of “dark money” in support of Tea-Publicans Doug Little and Tom Forese in the Arizona Corporation Commission race, in an effort to “capture” the commission so it can write its own policies.

Now APS and its parent company Pinnacle West are big players in the Attorney General race as well. Arizona’s Politics Blog reports, BREAKING: APS Semi-Openly Places $425k Bet On Arizona Attorney General Race:

dark_moneyThe parent company of APS – Pinnacle West Capital – is spending (at least) $425,000 telling Arizonans about the “dangerous views” of Democratic AG nominee Felecia Rotellini.

While APS is widely-believed to be secretly spending large amounts of money on the Corporation Commission election, its $425,000 contribution to the Republican Attorneys General Association is the first (material*) political expenditure to be brought to light, after RAGA filed its quarterly report with the Internal Revenue Service last week.

Interestingly, the third quarter (July – Sept) report (below the jump) only lists one Pinnacle West $175,000 contribution, on September 15 – the day before Arizona’s Politics reported on the $1.6M ad buy by RAGA.  However, it indicates that the aggregate year to date contribution is $425,000.

RAGA has blown past the reported $1.6M budget that it had for the Arizona race, perhaps because of the additional contributions by APS.  As of last Tuesday, RAGA has spent $1,757,961 in Arizona (TV and mailers).  The most recent ad hit the airwaves over the weekend, and is titled “Dangerous Views.”

* Pinnacle West has contributed $5,000 to two related independent expenditure groups suppoting Republican candidates for the Arizona House and Senate. (“Senate Victory PAC” and “House Victory PAC“)

In a follow up post Arizona’s Politics Blog reports, ARIZONA AG RACE: National Republican AG Group Goes Dark, Outraises Democratic Counterpart More Than 4:1 In 3rd Quarter; Explains 6:1 Difference In Arizona Spending (#50ShadesOfDarkMoney):

In the Arizona Attorney General’s race, the national Republican 527 organization is outspending the Democrats’ by more than 6:1.  Dark money contributed mightily to that discrepancy, as RAGA raised 4 times as much money as DAGA in the 3rd quarter.

* * *

As of today, RAGA’s Arizona IE committee has spent $1,757,961 dollars on TV ads and mailers bashing Democratic nominee Felecia Rotellini.  The most recent ad is here.  (Somewhat ironically, that ad even takes a swipe at its Democratic counterpart.)

Significant Arizona contributors to RAGA are Arizona Public Service’s parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp – which has given $425,000, and Tucson auto sales titan Jim Click ($25,000).

Meanwhile, DAGA’s Arizona IE committee – the Grand Canyon Committee for Justice and Fairness – has spent $287,665 bashing GOP nominee Mark Brnovich for his role as a private prison lobbyist.  The unions that help fund DAGA are also  running a $450,000 ad against Brnovich, through the local group Revitalize Arizona.  (Even with the latter, the outside spending discrepancy is 2.4:1.)

#50ShadesOfDarkMoney

One month ago, the mega-campaigns by RAGA and DAGA prompted the initiation of Arizona’s Politics’ #50ShadesOfDarkMoney series, analyzing the disclosure of original sources of monies to independent expenditure efforts, and assigning each group a point on the dark money spectrum.  RAGA was assigned a pretty dark shade of grey: 35, with the following analysis:

2) RAGA AZ IE: Registered this month. 1st report will likely just show “RAGA” as contributor. RAGA formed earlier this year, discloses contributors to IRS quarterly. A significant portion – estimated at between 30-35% of RAGA’s intake is from very dark money contributors, with some possibly filtered through multiple entities. SHADES OF DARK: 35

If anything, the 3rd quarter IRS filing could move RAGA a few shades darker.  Last month, we noted that RAGA received greater than 30% of its 2014 funds from dark money organizations.  This quarter’s report is startling! RAGA took in $4.3M.  Of that, $3.9M – or, 91% – came from two dark money organizations.  The Judicial Crisis Network put in $2.6M and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce added $1.3M.

That brings the dark money percentage of RAGA’s 2014 monies to greater than 50% (approximately $6.1M of $11.7M).

(Using the current qualifying standard for social welfare groups – that they must spend more than 50% of their funds on so-called non-election-related causes – RAGA has now crossed the 50% threshold for being considered a DARK 527 organization.)

Thus, Arizona’s Politics revises its 50 shades assessment of RAGA, and moves it to a 40 on the spectrum.

DAGA remains at SHADES OF DARK: 20.

Prior to Citizens United and McCutcheon, a public utility company rarely if ever engaged in electoral politics, especially in the Corporation Commission race where the appearance of attempting to capture the commission is a public relations problem for APS. Pinnacle West has been a contributor to political campaigns in the past.

What is this sudden interest in the Attorney General race? Is APS and Pinnacle West afraid that Felecia Rotellini will investigate their dark money activities in this campaign and possibly prosecute them for campaign finance law violations? (as well she should). Has Mark Brnovich made any promises to turn a blind eye for this “dark money” support?

There’s something rotten in the state of Arizona.

UPDATE: Howard Fischer adds, Phoenix utility pumps money into attorney general campaign:

Strictly speaking, RAGA is not a “dark money” group. Unlike others involved in trying to influence this year’s election, it does provide a list of donors.

But it’s not that simple, as the association does take cash from other groups that do not make such disclosures.

That includes the American Future Fund, which gave it $650,000 earlier this year, meaning that the ultimate source of all of its dollars remains secret.

Other reports, however, show that the American Future Foundation, in turn, received much of its funding, at least in the 2012 election cycle, from Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group founded by Sean Noble that has now morphed into American Encore.

And Noble, who works for Brnovich, has previously been a consultant for APS.

There is at least the appearance of illegal campaign coordination between these groups trough the common denominator, the “Kochtopus” bag man for money laundering, Sean Noble. The Secretary of State and attorney General should be investigating this.

This isn’t the first time APS has been has been alleged to have put money into a political campaign. During the Republican primary, Vernon Parker and Lucy Mason charged the utility was behind the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into commercials against them by Save Our Future Now. The organization, which refuses to disclose its donors, also spent more than $425,000 on behalf of Doug Little and Tom Forese, who have advanced to the primary.

And Save Our Future Now already has reported spending $1.3 million in commercials attacking Democrat Sandra Kennedy.

On Tuesday, Bunnell again refused to confirm or deny the involvement of either APS or its parent in the Corporation Commission race. Instead, he repeated his statement about the interest in supporting candidates that the company believes will support its energy policies.

2 Responses to Pinnacle West (APS) ‘dark money’ in Corporation Commission and Attorney General races

  1. UPDATE: In response to my article and inquiry, RAGA tonight amended its 3rd quarter filing to show that APS (Pinnacle West) *only* has contributed $175,000 TOTAL to the ad campaign against Rotellini. More details: bit.ly/AZp1000

    Thanks for disseminating my article and for your additional analysis, AZBM!