Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bitter Smith: It's still bitter, not better

Susan Bitter Smith, the AZ Corporation Commission chair, is being asked to resign - or stop lobbying - by two sources: Chandler Attorney Tom Ryan and now the conservative Public Integrity Alliance. Reporting on this is by Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times.

A conservative nonprofit group that helped drive former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne from office called on the U.S. Attorney for Arizona to investigate Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Susan Bitter Smith for possible federal crimes.

In a press conference held outside the U.S. Attorney's office in downtown Phoenix, Tyler Montague, president of the Arizona-based Public Integrity Alliance, repeated many of the allegations against Bitter Smith, originally made in a September complaint to the Arizona Attorney General's Office by Chandler attorney Tom Ryan.

These are, essentially, that the Republican CorpCom chair has a conflict of interest in lobbying on behalf of Cox Communications while serving as a commissioner on the board that oversees the telecommunications portion of Cox's business.

"How can it be possible that somebody who is a paid lobbyist for an entity simultaneously be its chief regulator?" wondered Montague.

Bitter Smith is a "registered lobbyist for Cox Communications Arizona," he told reporters, and she "receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Southwest Cable Communications Association," which has a board of directors that has included Cox executives.

"Commissioner Bitter Smith received payment from the very utilities she swore to regulate," Montague said.

He observed that according to Ryan's complaint with the AG's office, Bitter Smith took part in "at least 10 votes" that affected the SCCA. Montague said he doesn't buy Bitter Smith's explanations concerning the apparent conflict.

"She's justified this by saying, well, there's a difference between the telecom portion of Cox and the cable portion," Montague stated. "I don't know about you, but they deliver services to me on one line. I get one bill. It's one entity. [The two parts of Cox] are highly interdependent [and] sell bundled services. So it's hard to claim that benefiting one aspect of Cox's business is not commingled with the rest of their business."

EJ Montini (azcentral.com) comments on the never-ending drip-drip-drip of bad publicity - mainly brought by Bitter Smith on herself

Just about every politician has to weather a storm now and then. A political hurricane. For the most part, if they hold fast and face the wind, they make it through.

It’s different when the crisis creeps along, never going away, slowly and steadily building.

That, drip, is how it’s been, drip, for Arizona Corporation Commissioner, drip, Susan Bitter Smith.

The folks pursuing these cases against Bitter Smith are persistent. The accusations won’t go away, and the authorities are obliged to give them a serious look. Meaning the news stories will persist.

It’s not a hurricane. It’s a leaky political faucet. The drip, drip, drip of crisis is accumulating, rising around Bitter Smith.

And the best raincoat in the world can’t keep an elected official from drowning in bad publicity.

Read Lemons' report and Montini's comments for more on this one.

For Bitter Smith it is not getting better.

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