Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bobghazi update: The Republic editorial board says follow the money

Or words to that effect. The editorial board of The Republic/azcentral.com wants to pursue the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) scandal but along a different dimension using a different tool. Snippets from the editorial follow.

As juicy as L'Affaire Commissaire may be, however, it is not the truly important issue regarding the Arizona Corporation Commission and the 2014 elections, in which two of Stump's Republican friends were elected to join him on the commission.

The real issue — the one that really matters, when all is said and done — is the money.

It isn't whether Stump acted (improperly) as a conduit between the campaigns of his friends and a "dark money" group that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help get them elected.

What matters is the money itself. What matters is discovering where it came from. Strong evidence suggests that Arizona Public Service, the largest utility regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission, spent lavishly to get its preferred candidates elected.

The operative word here: suggests. We need to know for a fact what APS spent on last year's election. We need to know for a fact that the utility company funneled its campaign cash through independent campaign committees.

OK. I've been blogging about the pattern of communication between former ACC Chair Bob Stump and those two Republican candidates (now ACC members) and dark money operatives. The Republic wants to go after the money. How can that happen?

There is one way to get to the bottom of that pressing matter: The regulators must demand it. Under state law, it takes only one commissioner to require APS to open its books. Bob Burns, with an independent streak as big as the Mogollon Rim, has done it before. He should do it again.

Last year, two of the Stump's friends, Tom Forese and Doug Little, ran successful races for the commission. Both won. And both enjoyed as much support from independent campaign committees as [another candidate] Parker endured calumny.

Did APS funnel that money to the committees? We need to know. We can know. We must know. Arizona Corporation Commission members have the legal authority to demand that information. One of them needs to do so.

Stump's potential role as a middleman is a related issue. But it is not the main event. We need to focus on the main event.

APS as a corporation has a legal right to funnel all the money it wants to all the dark-money campaign committees it likes.

But the Arizona Corporation Commission has a commensurate duty to voters: To force disclosure. To assure that the company it regulates is not working behind a curtain to get the Corporation Commission it prefers.

Interesting. The Republic just got on board with the Checks and Balances Project - the group that is pushing ACC to go after the content of Stump's messages, some of which were to APS and dark money folks.

ACC is under a dark cloud of suspicion about its former Chair, APS, and dark money. That means that all five commissioners now share that blight on their records. At least one needs to step up and do the right thing. The Republic editorial board again:

Until someone [steps up], the entire Corporation Commission is held in suspicion. Are all five members beholden to APS?

The two commissioners (Forese and Little) who won their seats in the last election are tarnished. The former Chair of ACC, Bob Stump, has lost credibility. That leaves two commissioners, one being Bob Burns and the other Susan Bitter Smith. One of them needs to act and to act damn fast to regain public trust in this branch of our state government.

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