Monday, June 3, 2019

Meanwhile back at the ranch ...

Every so often it’s worth taking a break from the fog of national politics and check in on happenings here at home in Arizona. The Arizona Corporation Commission (which I think of as the Arizona Corruption Commission) is back in the news. Gov. Ducey elevated one of the commissioners, Andy Tobin, to a department directorship with a big bump in pay: $79,500 to $195,000. And who will replace him? Ducey named to the Commission Lea Marquez Peterson who has received campaign contributions from a power company regulated by the Commission. Suppress your gag reflex and read on.

The Arizona Capitol Times (to which I subscribe) reports that Governor Doug Ducey’s choice for agency head shuffles Corp Comm.

Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday tapped former Republican congressional contender Lea Marquez Peterson to the agency that decides how much utilities can charge their customers.

The announcement came just moments after Ducey announced that Andy Tobin, currently serving on the Arizona Corporation Commission, will leave that agency to become the head of the state Department of Administration. That is the agency that handles internal matters for the state, like payroll and managing office space.

Tobin, a former speaker of the House, was … named to the commission by Ducey in 2015. He won election to a four-year term the following year in a campaign in which APS openly spent $4 million to ensure the commission remained an all-Republican affair.

Marquez Peterson, who formerly was president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will fill out the balance of Tobin’s term, which runs through 2020.

The announcement comes at a particularly critical time at the commission, which is looking at whether Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility, is earning too much, particularly after the regulators gave the go ahead in 2017 for the company to collect another $95 million from customers.

… Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of APS, reported profits in the first three months of 2019 of $17.9 million, versus $3.2 million for the same period a year ago.

Hmmm. Ya gotta wonder how they spent that increase. Read on.

Pinnacle West gave Marquez Peterson $2,500 in the Republican primary last year. Marquez Peterson’s congressional campaign also was the beneficiary of $5,000 from David Hutchens, chief executive of Tucson Electric Power, and $350 from TEP lobbyist Steve Eddy.

But she told Capitol Media Services those donations are different than the money that APS funneled into commission races in 2014 and 2016 to help elect regulators of their choice.

Remember the old Texas saying: Ya gotta dance with them that brung ya.

“That was an entirely different race, a different position, representing a district in southern Arizona,” Marquez Peterson said. “So I consider that completely separate from a role at the Arizona Corporation Commission.”

And by inference she has no biases regarding important issues like renewable energy?

The Tucson Hispanic Chamber, under her leadership, took a position last year against an initiative that would have required utilities like APS and TEP to generate half of their electricity from renewable sources. But Marquez Peterson, noting other business groups also opposed the measure, said that does not necessarily align her with the interests of the utilities.

The AZ Blue Meanie had a lot to say about how Gov. Ducey replaces one ‘Kochtopus’ crony with another on the Arizona Corporation Commission. Quoting from the AZ Daily Star on-line:

APS has been embroiled in controversy for several years after suspected political spending in the 2014 commission election and political activity it acknowledged in more recent elections. The utility recently acknowledged it spent $3.2 million to elect favored regulators in 2014 and gave an accounting of its later political spending, including $4.1 million to influence its regulators’ 2016 election and nearly $40 million to defeat a citizens’ initiative last year that would have required that it get much more of its power from solar and other renewable sources.

Former Democratic commissioner Bill Mundell said Marquez Peterson “is deep in the pockets” of APS as a recipient of campaign money and a supporter of APS positions while at the chamber.

“Of all the unbiased and qualified people in Arizona that Ducey could have appointed, he picked an APS lobbyist that I’m concerned will do the bidding of APS when she gets to the commission,” Mundell said.

Marquez Peterson will fill out Tobin’s term and is expected run for election in 2020. Mundell, a really qualified candidate, is also running for election to the Commission in 2020.

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