- Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) Chair Susan Bitter Smith and member Bob Burns submitted a draft letter to the full commission proposing that it formally adopt a policy prohibiting campaign donations from utilities to ACC candidates.
- The policy, would prevent any appearance of financial influence, the regulators said. Their letter comes in the wake of allegations that Arizona Public Service used a front group to funnel money to Commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little during the 2014 campaign.
- Bitter Smith and Burns, both Republicans, are up for reelection in 2016 after casting votes against a contentious APS proposal to impose demand charges on owners of rooftop solar.
Bitter Smith and Burns's proposal would make it “unacceptable and inappropriate for public service corporations and unregulated entities to make campaign contributions in support of or in opposition to” any ACC candidate, the Arizona Daily Sun reports.
Opposing Republicans have already announced their intention to vie for the seats occupied by the two regulators, and could repeat the successes of Forese and Little in replacing sitting commissioners with alleged help from utility “dark money.”
Campaign finance rules intended to free Arizona elections from the influence of big donor contributions have been compromised by the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision. Media reports have alleged that APS and Pinnacle West Capital Corp., its parent, funneled some $2 million to Forese and Little through Save Our Future Now and the Free Enterprise Club. The groups contend their status as "social welfare" organizations exempt them from state disclosure laws.
APS has not confirmed or denied the donations, but instead claims the allegations are part of a "non-stop propaganda war" by solar advocates attempting to discredit the company for doing nothing more than furthering its own interests by participating in the political process.
Arizona is one of eleven states in which regulators are popularly elected rather than appointed by the Governor or legislature.