Former Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission Gary Pierce held about a dozen private meetings with executives of APS, the state’s largest electrical utility (and which is regulated by the ACC) — many of which took place while the commission was considering proposed rate hikes for APS customers, according to a letter written by an ACC employee who reported directly to Piece. The letter was addressed to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Susan Bitter Smith, current ACC chair, and ACC executive director, Jodi Jerich and sent on February 13, 2015.
The whistle blower, who has not been publicly identified, also claimed that Pierce ordered him to exert pressure on authorities to expedite paperwork to incorporate the Conservative Business League, a political consulting firm. CBL’s website lists Ron Ludders and Bob Thomas as directors of the firm.
According to the letter, on October 4, 2012, a month before elections for ACC commissioners, “Mr. Ludders reiterated how important it was that the filing be processed as soon as possible because they had checks to cash.” In the letter, the whistle blower writes, “Mr. Ludders said they had $186,000 in checks to destroy Commissions [Paul] Newman and [Sandra] Kennedy. He did so while patting the pocket of his suit jacket.”
Democrats Newman and Kennedy, who billed themselves as part of a “solar team,” lost the November election.
The whistle blower thought nothing more of Ludders earlier comments until reading a December 11 news article about a “hit piece” mailer against the pro-solar pair, that, according the article, cost $186,000. In November 2013, the now all-GOP commission approved a measure allowing APS to impose a fee for customers with solar panels. APS proposed charging solar customers $8.00 per kilowatt — about $50 a month for a typical residential system. The commission instead imposed a fee of $.70 per kilowatt. Critics charge that although the new fee is small, it sets a precedent for future hikes which will discourage prospective customers from installing rooftop solar power.
The ACC whistle blower charged that in August of 2014 he told then-ACC Chairman Bob Stump about the improper meetings between Pierce and APS, his suspicions over “the dark money that funded the hit piece,” and other cases of “abuse of authority by current and ex officio members” of the ACC.
He ends his letter by stating that “to my knowledge nothing has been done with the information I provided.”
The man who heard the list of charges last summer, ACC commissioner Bob Stump, issued a statement last week saying, “Rest assured that this Commission takes all allegations seriously and I am confident that a through investigation will be conducted.”
In a twitter exchange in January, I asked Commissioner Stump about earlier charges of dark money influencing the ACC elections. Why not force donor disclosure? I asked. Stump didn’t answer directly, suggesting I track down his previous interviews and then dismissed the issue as “old campaign-stunt news.”