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APS boss promises no more campaign cash for regulators

(Photo by Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

(Photo by Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

The new CEO of Arizona Public Service Co. vowed today the company, its parent company, Pinnacle West, and other known affiliates won’t spend money on campaigns for utility regulators while he’s in charge. 

CEO Jeff Guldner’s statement came at a meeting of the Corporation Commission in which he fielded questions, giving them what they waited months to hear: a promise to no longer allow the utility to contribute to the elections of the regulators who will have to regulate them.

Chairman Bob Burns, who has previously received money from APS and its affiliates, asked Guldner back in September — when Don Brandt was still CEO and Guldner was still in waiting to take the top job — if Guldner could commit to not contributing any longer, Guldner said he was not in a position to make that promise. 

Jeff Guldner

Jeff Guldner

Guldner brought up the subject again on Tuesday, keeping everybody in suspense before making the commitment. 

Burns said it was the only question he wanted answered.

Guldner did want to clarify an additional remark that he cannot control individual employees. 

“I do intend to make it clear to the executive team that I will be very frustrated, but I cannot prohibit (under federal election law) them to make contributions individually to commissioners,” he said. Employees can still contribute “fives” as Guldner called, meaning five dollar contributions here and there, but Guldner emphasized he wants all employees to avoid giving commissioners money.

Three of the current commissioners, Lea Marques Peterson, Boyd Dunn and Burns have all accepted contributions from APS and other utilities and now have to disclose it before any vote relating to those companies under a code of ethics pushed by Commissioner Justin Olson last year.

Burns said he did not want to put Guldner in any position where he would violate the law, referring to the five dollar rule, but he did accept the promise and turned it over to the other commissioners. 

Dunn commended his fellow commissioners for putting the code of ethics into place calling it “the most comprehensive code of ethics in this area of any commission in the country, if not any state agency” and also commended Guldner for making this promise. 

“I think enormously important for APS and I commend you for that statement,” Dunn said.

He said that other utilities have made similar statements in the past, so APS joining the other utilities in vowing to no longer spend on commissioners who have to regulate them is a “healthy attitude.” 

Dunn, like Burns, only had one question for Gulder. 

“Do you really mean it?”

Guldner said, “Absolutely.”

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