Attorney General Mark Brnovich put his thumb on the scale to help Arizona Public Service in its mega-million-dollar campaign to defeat a proposal to boost Arizona’s renewable-energy requirements.
Now, Brnovich is finding scorch marks on that thumb, and possibly on his until-now fairly decent reputation.
Now he’s finding there is a cost to carrying the water for APS: a $3.6 million independent campaign accusing him of corruption.
This, courtesy of Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, the Prop. 127 clean-energy campaign funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America super PAC.
Cue the commercial: “If you want to clean up corruption and bring down energy bills, vote no on Brnovich and (Gov. Doug) Ducey,” a newly released ad says.
Ducey has long been tight with APS.
Brnovich landed in Steyer’s cross hairs last month when his office changed the ballot description of Prop. 127 in what appears to be a blatant signal to vote no.
The Republican attorney general added a notation informing voters that utilities would need to meet the new clean-energy requirements “irrespective of cost to consumers”.
Never mind that there is nothing in the initiative that addresses the cost issue. Never mind that state Elections Director Eric Spencer found the added wording “eyebrow raising.”
The clean-energy campaign, naturally, howled about Brnovich’s add. Team Steyer contends that energy bills in Arizona will drop if Prop. 127 passes.
APS, meanwhile, was ecstatic. It took the utility-funded Arizonans for Affordable Electricity campaign about three seconds to incorporate Brnovich’s “irrespective of cost” language into its ads, which warn that your electric bill would go up $1,936 a year should Prop. 127 pass.
Brnovich’s office has said the language “can reasonably be regarded as an attempt to provide necessary and appropriate information to the voting public.”
It also can be – should be – reasonably regarded as information that belongs in anti-Prop. 127 campaign ad. Information the state’s attorney general added to the state’s official description of Prop. 127.
Five words that sure smell like payback to APS.
APS, through its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., contributed $425,000 to the Republican Attorney General’s Association in 2014, money that made its way into RAGA’s independent campaign to get Brnovich elected.
This year, the utility has thus far contributed another $50,000 to RAGA for Brnovich’s re-election campaign against Democrat January Contreras. (Team Steyer, meanwhile, has contributed $15,000 to Contreras, in addition now to its $3.6 million attack against her opponent.)
Despite six-figure help from APS, Brnovich, in the past, has been that rare politician who exhibited an actual backbone when it comes to dealing with the state’s powerhouse utility.
In 2016, he released an opinion reinforcing Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns’ authority to investigate whether APS secretly funded a $3.2 million dark-money campaign to get its favored regulators elected to the Corporation Commission.
Disappointing to see Brnovich cave to APS
No other Republican politician in the state has dared to side with Burns, even though he, too, is a Republican.
That’s why it’s disappointing to see Brnovich’s wholesale capitulation to APS now.
Brnovich apparently isn’t sweating the accusation of corruption.
“I guess I must be doing something right,” he told Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer. “I’ve said before that you can judge a person by their opponent. And the fact that an out-of-state California billionaire is going to spend millions of dollars to sully my reputation I think says more about him than it says about me.”
That may be true.
But the fact that the attorney general of the state of Arizona would slip a freebie APS ad smack in the middle of the state’s official ballot description of Prop. 127?
That says something, too.
Reach Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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