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APS Rejects Regulators' Request To Halt Campaign Contributions
Arizona’s largest utility and its parent company will not stop making campaign contributions in the races for Arizona Corporation Commission.
Commissioners Bob Burn and Susan Bitter Smith had asked that the public service companies they regulate voluntarily refrain from financially backing candidates for the office. The impetus was the ongoing controversy over $3 million in "dark money" contributions in last year’s election, which is widely believed to have come from Arizona Public Service and Pinnacle West Capital.
On Friday, the companies' CEO Donald Brandt filed a letter with the commission flatly rejecting the suggestion by Burns and Bitter Smith that such activity undermines public trust in the commission. He contends that would “muzzle” the utility's political speech, even as others continue to pour money into elections. Brandt adds that commissioners are elected through a democratic process, and he does not believe they would base decisions affecting Arizona citizens on anything other than the evidence submitted to them.
"This is simply how democracy works: consumers, businesses, and others with an interest in legislative decisions seek to inform voters and persuade them to support the candidates whose positions those speakers favor, and the voters decide which candidates to elect," writes Brandt.
So far, more than half a dozen companies have stated that they will not make contributions in future corporation commission elections.
Commissioners Tom Forese, Doug Little and Bob Stump have all raised objections to Burns' and Bitter Smith's request.