Quantcast
Home / agencies / Brnovich concludes regulators can inspect APS’ records

Brnovich concludes regulators can inspect APS’ records

Attorney General Mark Brnovich announces his office filed a petition to remove Corporation Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith from office. (Photo by Luige del Puerto/Arizona Capitol Times)

Attorney General Mark Brnovich  (Photo by Luige del Puerto/Arizona Capitol Times)

State utility regulators have a legal right to question company executives about whether they secretly funneled money into political campaigns, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said today.

In a formal legal opinion, Brnovich sided with Bob Burns who has been trying for months to get Arizona Public Service to open its books to show any political donations. When efforts to secure voluntary compliance failed, Burns made an official demand.

APS refused. And attorney Mary O’Grady, writing to Burns on behalf of utility investors, said the powers of commissioners to inspect the books of utilities is limited.

So Burns asked Brnovich to take a look.

Burns called the opinion “a victory for Arizona ratepayers and those of us on the side of transparency.”

An APS spokeswoman would say only that the utility is studying what Brnovich wrote.

The question is more than academic.

There are allegations — not denied by APS — that it put money into the 2014 campaign for Arizona Corporation Commission through one of two “dark money” organizations that were spending heavily to influence the elections.

Campaign finance records show that Save Our Future Now and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club together spent more than $3 million on the campaign, first to help Tom Forese and Doug Little win the Republican nomination, and then to ensure they won the general election. Both groups have refused to reveal their donors, saying they are organized under federal tax laws as “social welfare” organizations exempt from state financial disclosure laws.

Don Brandt, the chief executive officer of APS, is making similar claims.

“Compelled disclosure about political contributions that APS or its affiliates may have made out of shareholder profits would go beyond what is required of corporations under Arizona campaign finance law, and would impinge on APS’ First Amendment rights,” he wrote to Burns.

The company has been cagey about its role in the campaign.

Spokesman Alan Bunnell has said APS has been the subject of a “non-stop propaganda war” by the group Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed. TUSK, which spent $236,000 in the race, largely to defeat Little, is funded by companies that sell and lease rooftop solar units.

“It would be irresponsible for us not to defend our company,” Bunnell said, adding that “no one disputes our right to participate in the process.”

Burns has not disputed that right. But he said what APS spends to influence the election of those who set its rates should be a matter of public record.

Brnovich, in a 12-page formal opinion, said he reads Arizona law to allow individual commissioners and their employees to “at any time, inspect the accounts, books, papers and documents” of any utility. And he said commissioners may examine utility company officers and employees under oath.

Brnovich said that includes political contributions, charitable contributions and lobbying expenses.

Still, the opinion could leave Burns short of what he wants.

Brnovich said that right of individual commissioners does not extend to affiliates. And it is possible that any campaign donations were made not by APS but by Pinnacle West Capital Corp., its parent.

He did say that the commission, as a whole, does have some right to review the records of affiliates as long as that review is necessary for the panel to do its job of setting rates.

But Brnovich said that requires a decision by the commission. And so far Burns is the lone regulator who has shown an interest in pursuing the information.

There was no immediate response from APS.

 

2 comments

  1. Time the Arizona Corp Commission came clean…ready, Bob?

  2. California’s Pacific Gas & Electric, the West’s largest public utility (AZ’s collectively would constitute a tiny division) publishes this searchable list of contributions on its corporate website (http://www.pgecorp.com/aboutus/corp_gov/political_engagement/political_engagement.shtml/).

    One might argue that one reason Gov. Ducey wants to pack the AZ Supreme Court is to avoid the necessity for his corporate contributors to ever have to make a similar disclosure: ultimately, a packed court could easily uphold a lower court ruling overturning Brnovich’s official opinion. Anyway, here’s the PG&E list as of today:

    POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND EXPENDITURES

    PG&E is pleased to provide the following reports detailing policies, procedures, and contributions. It is PG&E’s policy that contributions are made to promote the interests of the company, and without regard for the private political preferences PG&E officers and employees.

    PG&E’s Political Contribution Policy and Procedures
    View Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    2015 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    2015 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    2014 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    2014 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    2013 (January – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    2012 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    2011 Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    2010 Candidates and groups that received PG&E State and Local PAC contributions
    View Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    PG&E has chosen not to engage directly in independent expenditures to advocate for the election or defeat of federal candidates. Should the company make any direct independent expenditures in the future, the company would disclose such expenditures on the company’s website and on publicly available campaign disclosure reports.
    2015 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2015 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2014 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2014 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2013 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2013 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2012 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2012 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2011 Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    2010 Candidates and groups that received PG&E Federal PAC contributions
    View Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    PG&E has chosen not to engage directly in independent expenditures to advocate for the election or defeat of federal, state or local candidates. Should the company or its affiliated PACs make any direct independent expenditures in the future, the company would disclose such expenditures on the company’s website and on publicly available campaign disclosure reports.
    2015 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2015 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2014 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2014 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2013 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2013 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2012 (July – December) Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2012 (January – June) Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2011 Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions
    2010 Candidates and groups that received PG&E corporate contributions

    Periodic disclosure reports dating back to 1999 can be found at the following websites:

    http://www.fec.gov/disclosure.shtml (Political Contributions to Federal Candidates and Campaigns)
    http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/campaign/ (Political Contributions to California State Candidates, Campaigns, and Committees)

    LOBBYING AND ADVOCACY

    PG&E is pleased to provide the following reports detailing lobbying policies and procedures, and activities:

    PG&E’s Advocacy and Lobbying Policy and Procedures
    Federal Lobbying Reports
    State Lobbying Reports
    Trade Associations that received dues payments in related to lobbying
    2015(July – December) – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2015(January – June) – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2014(July – December) – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2014(January – June) – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2013(July – December) – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2013(January – June) – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2012(July – December) – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2012(January – June) – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2011 – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying
    2010 – Trade Associations that received dues payments related to lobbying

    That’s how a real utility citizen responds to the public interest in how its profits are used for political advantage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

 

x

Check Also

scales justice court 620

Group agrees not to harass churches that aid illegal immigrants

Members of Patriot Movement AZ have agreed to change the tactics they use to protest the practices at some Arizona churches of helping migrants.