Various watchdog groups and media sources are interested in communications during the last election between Bob Stump, a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission, the Republican candidates for seats on the Commission, and dark money groups. Here are snippets from a report by Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com.
Here is the issue:
Independent campaigns can spend as much as they want to get somebody elected (or defeated) – and sadly, the dark-money campaigns don't have to disclose the source of their funding -- but it is illegal for independent campaigns to coordinate with the candidates they seek to get elected.
And the Clean Elections Commission has a stake in this because candidates Forese and Little were running "clean" meaning that they were using Clean Elections public financing.
Checks and Balances Project, a non-profit that advocates for clean energy policies, this week disclosed phone logs that call into question whether Stump acted as a go-between in order to coordinate activities between Arizona Public Service, a pair of APS-friendly candidates and a dark-money independent campaign widely believed to have been funded by APS.
According to Checks & Balances, Stump used his state phone to text AzFEC president Scot Mussi while curiously also texting Forese, Little and their campaign manager, Alan Heywood.
Evan Wyloge, reporter for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, overlaid the calls with AzFEC's spending on its campaign for Little and Forese and came up with some interesting coincidences.
Here's a partial timeline Wyloge put together:
July 23: Mussi's group spends $97,000 on mailers for Forese and Little.
July 24: Stump and Mussi trade eight texts, and Stump and Little exchanged 17 texts.
July 25: Stump exchanges 18 texts with the candidates' campaign manager, Heywood. It was the first time the two had texted since May 1.
Evening of July 25 and morning of July 26: Stump and Mussi texted five times and Stump and Forese texted four times.
July 28: Mussi's AzFEC spends another $64,000 on mailers for Forese and Little.
In all, the logs show Stump sent 56 emails to Barbara Lockwood, an APS executive between June and September and 46 to Mussi. He sent about 180 to Forese and Little, who enjoyed $3.2 million in dark money support from AzFEC and another dark-money group believed to have gotten funds from APS.
Not surprisingly, the pair was easily elected to the commission that regulates utilities.
Did any of these messages have anything to do with the campaign?
Of course not.
Stump ... has said his calls were unrelated to Forese and Little's campaign. Mussi, he said, is an old friend and they were simply trying to coordinate a trip to the symphony.