Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Of Course Not: Can the AZ Corporation Commission subpoena APS's books to discover campaign contributions?

It's a good day for my "Of Course Not" series. Here's a short story from kjzz.org on whether the Corporation Commission can go after APS's financial records to determine if it funded the campaigns of two now elected commissioners.

A utility trade group says Arizona Public Service should not be forced to disclose if it's responsible for millions in campaign contributions in the last Arizona Corporation Commission election.

Gary Yaquinto with the Arizona Investment Council said said he recognizes the commission has broad powers to request information and data from public service companies. So long as that directly relates to rate-making.

"But the object of subpoenaing information about alleged campaign contributions has absolutely nothing to do with utility rates of APS or any other utility," said Yaquinto.

Yaquinto’s organization includes companies like APS and has filed letters arguing against Commissioner Bob Burns’ proposal to open the APS books and reveal if it funneled money into the campaigns of Commissioners Doug Little and Tom Forese. All of this takes places amid the ongoing fight over the future of rooftop solar and how APS should charge such customers.

So what do we make of all this? The trade group's position is nothing more than propaganda (nice way of saying B. S.) designed to shield APS's books from ACC inspection. Article 15 of the Arizona Constitution, Section 4 is quite clear.

Section 4. The corporation commission, and the several members thereof, shall have power to inspect and investigate the property, books, papers, business, methods, and affairs of any corporation whose stock shall be offered for sale to the public and of any public service corporation doing business within the state, and for the purpose of the commission, and of the several members thereof, shall have the power of a court of general jurisdiction to enforce the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence by subpoena, attachment, and punishment, which said power shall extend throughout the state. Said commission shall have power to take testimony under commission or deposition either within or without the state.

There is nothing there that stops the ACC from exercising it's "inspect and investigate" power regardless of motivation -- rates or campaign finance contributions.

The commission plans to hold a workshop on the issue later this month.

What? A workshop to do what? Will the ACC persevere and exercise its power? The industry group says "Of Course Not." And the industry group has at least three solid votes among its regulators on the commission.

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