Lauren Kuby, an urban sustainability scientist at the University of Arizona and candidate for Arizona Corporation Commissioner, warned about the impact of corruption in the Corporation Commission at the December 6, 2021 meeting of Democrats of Greater Tucson.
While transparency in campaign finances is critical in any election, the Corporation Commission doesn’t always get much attention. Kuby emphasized why dark money can be so dangerous for this position and why it’s not an election to look away from.
“Let’s talk about the Corporation Commission for a minute. It really is one of the most powerful branches of government, and it’s considered the fourth branch of government,” she explained. “If you flip on an electric light switch, if you take a hot shower, if you drink a cold beer on a hot day, the Corporation Commission has some influence over your daily life.”
The Corruption Commission
“Arizona 15 years ago was leading the nation in responding to the crisis and opportunity of renewable energy. You think about where we’ve come since then, right? We have even more crises, and I would say to you, even more opportunities,” she said.
“But 15 years later, the Commission is referred to as the ‘Corruption Commission.’ We’ve had APS and other utilities, really not just helping to select the commissioners in the elections, but actually interfering during the process and in a very direct way with emails, texts, meetings that happened with commissioners. So, we’ve seen not just the handpicking of the very regulators that regulate them, but we’ve received a renewable energy standard that still remains 15% by 2025.”
Campaign finance is also a serious concern of hers and one she has experience in tackling. “I spearheaded an initiative in Tempe that passed by 80% of the vote and that reduced the amount you can give to a council campaign from $6,000 to $500. And in a very famous piece of legislation, 91.44% of the voters supported our dark money ordinance, which is now the basis of what Terry Goddard is doing statewide. We’re proud that Tempe led the way in requiring dark money groups too. If they’re going to spend in our election, they need to reveal who they are. So that’s also an issue that led me to run for Corporation Commissioner.”
“(The Corporation Commission) is often called the most powerful branch of government that no one’s ever heard of,” Kuby said. The position is an appropriate next step for a candidate like Kuby, who has worked for years to help cities in Arizona achieve energy and sustainability goals, serving as a member of the Tempe city council and as the manager of events and community at ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation.
“Back in 2018, Tempe adopted a 100% renewable energy goal for Tempe city operations,” she said. “And that goal has not been realized. Sadly, we still have some years to go because, frankly, the utilities aren’t playing ball with us. They don’t have to, they’re not incentivized to, and they don’t have a real energy standard that requires them to. So that is one of the motivating factors I had for running for corporation commission. We need to help cities to reach those goals as more and more cities adopt 100% goals.”
Legislation for earned sick days and equal pay
While environmental protection is a key interest, it’s not the only one she wants to focus on. “Also, in the city of Tempe, I’ve led on worker protection, and both earned sick day legislation and equal pay legislation. Our equal pay program in Tempe is considered the best of its kind in any city in the country. So, I pride myself on that and worker protection. The Corporation Commission deals with the employees and workers and how those utilities are handling the workers.”
“It’s time that we adopt a renewable energy standard that reflects the crisis of our times. We see an increased intensity and number of wildfires in the Southwest. And certainly, in Arizona, we see a mega-drought that’s gone for 20 years that has no promise of lessening. As a result, we see emergencies with water. We also see extreme heat that kills our residents every summer.”
“I’m someone who comes to you with a very strong background in worker protection, consumer advocacy, corporate watch doggedness, and I’m a champion for renewable energy. We need all those qualities in a commissioner,” she summarized.
Kuby’s campaign is uniting with Sandra Kennedy’s campaign for Corporation Commissioner, both women running on a dedication to clean elections, with the shared goal of creating a democratic majority on the commission, which hasn’t happened since the seventies.
“I don’t think this is hyperbole to say that if Sandra and I are both elected, it’s not just about Sandra. It’s not just about me. It has to be both of us, so that we can change Arizona’s energy future. That’s a very big statement to make, but the reason I’m excited about this run is I’m hoping to be a grandma in the next year or so. I want to leave behind a better world for my grandchildren, and what we can do as a state is embrace this challenge and opportunity. And we will have this opportunity to lead the nation in renewable energy adoption and do it in such a way that Arizona families are protected and are a part of being on the right side of history.”