APS, the state’s largest utility and subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp., spent roughly $10.7 million on efforts to influence the 2014 elections, millions more than previously thought. APS admits to spending more than $10M on 2014 elections:
The utility had fought for several years not to disclose how much it had spent in the race that saw Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little elected. That election came as APS was embroiled in a battle with solar advocates about how to craft the state’s net metering rules that require it to pay solar owners for excess power they produce.
Gov. Doug Ducey was the biggest beneficiary of “dark money” in 2014, attracting $8.2 million in outside money. Outside money played huge role in Arizona elections. The $12 million in outside money spent on the governor’s race alone eclipsed the total spent in any previous Arizona governor’s race.
ACC Commissioner Bob Burns has fought unsuccessfully for several years to get APS to release its spending, eventually losing a court battle saying he alone could not force the issue.
Recall that attorneys for Commissioners Andy Tobin and Boyd Dunn asked a judge to block the bid by Commissioner Bob Burns — the lone no vote on the rate hike — to investigate. State regulators trying to block probe into APS spending – again:
According to a report by Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer, Tobin’s attorney, David Cantelme, told the judge that there is no legal procedure to disqualify the four commissioners who approved the rate hike for APS.
Thus, he reasoned, it’s legally irrelevant that APS is widely believed to have spent more than $7 million to get them elected.
A change in the commission ranks following the 2018 election created a majority who said they wanted APS to reveal its spending. On March 29, APS filed information about how much it spent in the race, according to Capitol Media Services and the Arizona Capitol Times.
Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona, last week announced that Andy Tobin, currently serving on the Arizona Corporation Commission, will leave that agency to become the head of the state Department of Administration. That is the agency that handles internal matters for the state, like payroll and managing office space.
No worries, our “Kochtopus” owned governor replaced one “Kochtopus” crony on the Arizona Corporation Commission with another, longtime Republican Party toady Lea Marquez Peterson. It’s all good! Arizona governor hires utility regulator, taps replacement:
Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday named an elected member of Arizona’s utility regulation commission to run a large state department and replaced him with a southern Arizona woman who formerly ran a chamber of commerce group and ran for congress last year.
Ducey appointed Republican Andy Tobin to run the Department of Administration and replaced him on the Arizona Corporation Commission with Republican Lea Marquez Peterson. Marquez Peterson was the longtime president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and lost her bid for Congress last year in a race won by Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick.
The moves come at a time when Tobin and two other commissioners were boosting pressure on the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service Co. The commission is considering requiring APS to file a new case to review its power rates.
The political action committee of APS’s parent company contributed $2,500 to Marquez Peterson’s campaign last year. She also received $5,000 from the CEO of Tucson Electric Power and more from others affiliated with that utility.
The corporation commission oversees utilities that are granted monopolies to provide power, gas or water services. It approves rates that are designed to return a fair profit without gouging customers.
APS has been embroiled in controversy for several years after suspected political spending in the 2014 commission election and political activity it acknowledged in more recent elections. The utility recently acknowledged it spent $3.2 million to elect favored regulators in 2014 and gave an accounting of its later political spending, including $4.1 million to influence its regulators’ 2016 election and nearly $40 million to defeat a citizens’ initiative last year that would have required that it get much more of its power from solar and other renewable sources.
The commission is currently reviewing APS rates approved in 2017 that have been met with consumer complaints. The commissioners met Thursday morning without Tobin or Marquez Peterson to consider whether to have APS file a new rate-setting case. She was sworn in at about noon on Thursday.
Ducey has tapped Tobin multiple times since he left the Legislature after the 2014 session. The Republican ran the Weights and Measures department, then the insurance and financial services departments before Ducey appointed him to an open Corporation Commission seat in early 2016. Tobin was elected to a four-year term in November 2016.
“I’m thrilled to be able to bring Andy back into our administration,” Ducey said in a statement. “His passion for public service is unmatched and his understanding of state regulatory and administrative policy will serve the Department of Administration well as we continue to streamline and improve government.”
The Department of Administration oversees a vast range of business services for the state, including personnel, medical benefits, buildings and information technology. Tobin will get a big raise for taking the job, going from an annual salary of $79,500 as an elected commissioner to $195,000 as department director.
Ducey praised Marquez Peterson for bringing “a unique and important voice,” to the commission and said she had a wealth of experience.
Mostly as a longtime Republican Party toady, lending her name as co-chair to GOP campaigns so the GOP can claim they have support from the Hispanic community, when it was really only just Lea.
“As an entrepreneur, she knows firsthand the challenges businesses face navigating a complex government bureaucracy (riiight), and will bring a fresh perspective on the commission,” Ducey said. “I’m grateful for her willingness to serve.”
In an interview, Marquez Peterson said she’s prepared to quickly jump into the complexities of utility regulation. She also downplayed the utility contributions she received while running for congress.
“I think this is something that is certainly not going to influence any decisions that I make in the future as a commissioner,” she said. “And I worked with many citizens and many different businesses in that campaign to gain support to run for that seat, which unfortunately I wasn’t successful at. But I don’t think in any way it hinders my performance at the ACC.”
Former Democratic commissioner Bill Mundell said Marquez Peterson “is deep in the pockets” of APS as a recipient of campaign money and a supporter of APS positions while at the chamber.
“Of all the unbiased and qualified people in Arizona that Ducey could have appointed, he picked an APS lobbyist that I’m concerned will do the bidding of APS when she gets to the commission,” Mundell said.
This is just the way the “Kochtopus” likes it. They own the Arizona Republican Party in this state, and thus they own the state of Arizona. There is only one way to change this — stop electing Republicans.
Laurie Roberts of The Republic adds, Not another utility regulator with ties to APS (excerpt):
It’s interesting to note that Gov. Doug Ducey announced Peterson’s appointment just an hour or so after Tobin’s resignation became public on Thursday.
The governor, like much of Arizona’s leadership, has long been tight with APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp. Pinnacle West, its top officers and wives sunk big money into getting Ducey elected and re-elected.
Last year, at the height of the RedforEd movement, APS started a non-profit, the Arizona Education Project, which proceeded to run ads extolling the wonders of Arizona’s schools in an obvious effort to boost Ducey’s education credentials.
So it’s not exactly a shocker to learn that Peterson has some ties to APS as well.
Pinnacle West put $2,500 into her unsuccessful run for Congress last year. (Hedging its bets, APS also put $2,500 into Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s campaign.)
Humberto Lopez, a Tucson developer and longtime member Pinnacle West’s board of directors, and his wife Czarina, donated $10,800 to her campaign.
Both APS and Tucson Electric, whose lobbyist also donated to her campaign, are members of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which was run for years by Peterson.
And she sits on the board of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is almost indistinguishable from APS. In fact, one of the first people out with a big congrats on her appointment Thursday was Chamber CEO Glenn Hamer.
Of course, none of the above is enough to conclude that Peterson will join the time-honored Corporation Commission tradition of becoming an APS pocket pet.
But it’s worth noting that at a time when Arizonans finally have a chance to wrest control of our utility regulators away from the state’s powerhouse utility, Ducey appointed yet another person with ties to APS.
Pay close attention, Arizona.
Lea Marquez Peterson will have to stand for election in 2020.