Let the games begin! APS tries to keep the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative off the ballot


Here is a factoid to make the butt pucker of anyone who believes in democracy:

The state’s largest electric utility – APS – already has set aside close to $11 million to make elections this year come out the way it wants.

Is this what your monthly utility bill really goes to — subverting your constitutional right to a citizens initiative — and using your money to do it? Is this what the Founding Fathers really intended?

The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Utility’s parent company spends millions to sway elections:

New campaign finance reports show Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of Arizona Public Service, has put $7.53 million in its bid to keep voters from approving [the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative] which would require half of all power generated in the state come from renewable sources by 2030.

Matt Benson, spokesman for Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, the campaign committee set up by Pinnacle West, said it makes sense for the company, whose income is generated by ratepayers, to spend that kind of money.

But much of what Pinnacle West has spent so far has nothing to do with voter education but to keep the issue off the ballot entirely. It has paid $5.9 million to Arizona Petition Partners, part of what Benson said is an effort to go through the signatures submitted by Steyer’s group and see how many can be disqualified.

On this front, APS-backed group sues over clean energy ballot measure, claims 300K invalid signatures:

A group funded by the state’s largest utility is suing to keep a clean energy initiative off the ballot.

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, a political action committee whose funding comes from Arizona Public Service Co. parent company Pinnacle West Capital Corp., claim proponents of the clean energy plan did not gather enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, backed by San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, turned in more than 480,000 signatures in early July, more than double the required 225,963 signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

But, the Arizona Public Service -backed group claims in a lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, more than 300,000 of the submitted signatures are invalid. Among the reasons for invalidity:

  • The group says more than 195,000 of the signatures were from people who aren’t registered to vote in Arizona, which is required to sign a petition.
  • More than 74,000 signatures were on petition forms that were improper or not notarized, the APS-backed group claims.
  • More than 20,000 signers didn’t include their full name.
  • Nearly 13,000 people signed the petition more than once, the group claims.

Less than 106,441 signatures are valid, the group claims, which would leave the clean-energy measure well short of the requirement.

Note: Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, in part, is relying on a recently passed state law requiring “strict compliance” with all statutory requirements, rather than the “substantial compliance” standard long applied by Arizona courts. This recent statute is currently in front of the Arizona Supreme Court on review. State mulls case on ballot-measure rule:

Attorneys for the state and Republican legislative leaders are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to rebuff efforts by various organizations to void a statute that could make it harder for voters to propose their own laws.

In new legal filings, lawyers argued that state lawmakers have an absolute right to decide that initiative petitions have to be in “strict compliance” with every election law. Prior to 2017, Arizona courts had concluded that only “substantial compliance” is necessary, a standard that allowed voters to decide on issues even with minor and often technical errors.

But Assistant Attorney General Kara Karlson, who signed the legal brief, told the justices that they do not have to consider whether the new requirements violate the constitutional rights of voters. She said only those who have suffered some harm from the new law — or are at least immediately threatened — have a legal right to challenge it.

Karlson said that’s not the case here.

She pointed out that none of the groups that filed the suit have a pending initiative that is in danger of being disqualified from the ballot based on the new strict compliance mandate.

The Arizona Supreme Court should delay rendering any decision in this appeal to allow for the backers of  the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative to intervene in the lawsuit from the appeal that is certain to be filed in this legal challenge to  the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative, because the backers of this initiative do in fact “have a pending initiative that is in danger of being disqualified from the ballot based on the new strict compliance mandate.” Join the appeals together to get a timely decision.

(The same is quite possibly going to be true for the backers of the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative as well.)

The $7.53 million to quash the ballot measure is only part of what Pinnacle West has set aside for this year’s election. It already has a war chest of another $3.2 million for “independent expenditures” [“dark money”] on political races, essentially commercials it will run on behalf of candidates it favors and against those it does not want elected.

And that’s aside from what the company’s own political action committee contributes directly to candidates, like the $10,200 it already gave to help incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey win another term.

Pinnacle West is no stranger to putting big money into political issues.

Two years ago the company spent $4.2 million to ensure that Republicans Andy Tobin, Boyd Dunn and Bob Burns won seats on the five-member commission.

The utility also has refused to confirm or deny that it was the source of $3.2 million from anonymous donors spent in 2014 to secure the election of Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little.

That’s right, Pinnacle West bought the Republicans on the Arizona Corporation Commission. And this does not even include what the tentacles of the “Kochtopus” are known to spend on “dark money” campaigns in Arizona.

Arizona’s culture of corruption is well documented. A 2014 Harvard study said Arizona had the highest instance of illegal corruption — “private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups” — when surveying nearly 1,000 reporters.

Drain the swamp!