Arizona Utility Regulator Billed As Telecom Lobbyist In Advertisements

By Will Stone
Published: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 5:18pm
Updated: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 5:28pm
(Photo by Will Stone - KJZZ)
Paid advertisements for Susan Bitter Smith in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 "Book of Lobbyists & Government Liaisons."
(Photo by Will Stone - KJZZ)
The 2015 paid advertisement says Susan Bitter Smith lobbies on behalf of the cable television and telecommunications industries.

Another piece of evidence has surfaced that calls into question an Arizona top regulator and her ties to the utilities she regulates.

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith has denied she lobbies for the telecommunications industry, but ads published in her name — while she was in office — indicate otherwise.

Every year the Arizona Capitol Times publishes its “Book of Lobbyists & Government Liaisons” that lists a variety of state lobbyists and their specialties. In the 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions, reviewed by KJZZ, paid advertisements for Bitter Smith describe her as lobbying on behalf of “cable television” and “telecommunications.”

Bitter Smith has steadfastly rejected that her roles as a registered lobbyist for Cox Communications and as the head of a cable industry trade group, Southwest Cable Communications Association, amount to a conflict of interest with her elected corporation commission position. While the commission regulates telecommunications, Bitter Smith contends her lobbying has focused solely on the side of Cox that provides cable, which is not overseen by the commission.

“I’m not an employee, never have been an employee, never have had any relationship with Cox directly,” Bitter Smith told KJZZ earlier this year. “I’ve always worked for the cable TV association.”

According to the Arizona Capitol Times advertising office, the clients submit the information for the ads that appear in the "Book of Lobbyists & Government Liaisons."

Local attorney Tom Ryan, who has filed a complaint with the state Attorney General seeking Bitter Smith’s removal, said this new information undermines her defense.

“It knocks it out of the ballpark. It’s her personal admission with her picture, her name and her approval,” Ryan said.

 Ryan said he plans to file a supplement to his complaint using these ads as further proof of her ties to telecom.

Calls to Bitter Smith and her attorney on Friday afternoon were not returned.

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