Arizona PBS Horizon covers Bob Stump Investigation

azhorizonWatch Arizona’s PBS station break down the Bob Stump investigation during their “Horizon” program. Coverage of our story begins at the 11 minute mark.

C&BP Investigation Covered on NBC 12 Sunday Square Off

This weekend, Arizona’s NBC News 12 tackled the latest news in our investigation of Bob Stump and the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Top Headline, July 24, 2015

in the news

Excerpt from The Arizona Republic (7/23/15): “Which GOP genius tried to make a lawyer look bad?”

azcentral

The Arizona Republican Party… has released one of those ominous-sounding, personally stigmatizing hit-piece videos attacking Barr as a front man for a Washington-based clean-energy group called the Checks and Balances Project. Checks and Balances is the group seeking to uncover text messages sent and received by Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump — texts that may or may not show that Stump passed messages between an independent campaign committee and two successful GOP Corporation Commission candidates.

You can view the video in question by clicking here.

Top Headlines, July 23rd, 2015

in the news

Excerpt from The Arizona Republic (7/22/15): “Arizona GOP runs interference for Bob Stump … and APS?”

azcentral Clearly, Arizona Public Service must be worried. Which means that the Arizona Corporation Commission must be worried. Which means that the Arizona Republican Party is up nights … really, really worried.

Thus comes the state GOP’s campaign to discredit those who are nosing around trying to figure out just how cozy Arizona’s utility regulators are with Aizona’s largest utility. This week, the party put out a web ad, dubbing the Washington D.C.-based pro-clean energy Checks and Balances Project “a leftist group pushing their radical agenda.”

Excerpt from The Arizona Republic (7/22/15): “AG’s Office widens Arizona Corporation Commission investigation”

 azcentral“The investigators working on the ACC complaint felt that there was enough public discussion and enough cause that the phone should be examined and information and data analyzed in conjunction or in relation to the whistleblower complaint,” AG spokesman Ryan Anderson told me on Wednesday.

“There have been widespread media reports and public information on what the text messages may or may not have entailed or may have been discussed. So it was determined that that was relevant to the investigation.”

Excerpt from The Arizona Republic (7/22/15): “Arizona utility regulator Bob Stump’s phone seized in probe of former Commissioner Gary Pierce”

azcentral

The probe of Stump is being led by a watchdog group called the Checks and Balances Project. Through the state public records law, it requested text messages Stump sent from 2013 through earlier this year. The commission has been unable to provide them.

Excerpt from KJZZ (7/23/15): “Arizona Attorney General Confiscates Utility Regulator’s Cellphone”

kjzz

The saga of Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump’s deleted text messages took an unexpected twist this week when the Arizona Attorney General’s office decided to get involved.

A nonprofit watchdog group in Washington D.C. has been hounding the Corporation Commission for months for access to Stump’s cellphone in order to recover hundreds of deleted text messages.

Top Headlines, July 22nd, 2015

Excerpt from The Arizona Republic (7/21/15): “Arizona utility regulator Bob Stump’s phone seized in probe of former Commissioner Gary Pierce”

azcentral

The investigation of current Commissioner Bob Stump and the text messages he sent to Arizona Public Service Co., political groups and candidates for the commission has collided with an investigation of former Commissioner Gary Pierce….

‘The Attorney General’s Office requested the phone used by Commissioner Stump as part of its investigation of the whistleblower letter that the commission requested,’ said Barrett Marson, an interim spokesman for the commission.”

Excerpt from The Arizona Republic (7/22/15): “Attorney General should evaluate Bob Stump’s cozy quotient with APS” 

azcentral

“Once again, Corporation Commissioner Bob “the mad texter” Stump’s cell phone is on the move.

This time, it’s gone from the commission’s safe to the Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating allegations that former Commissioner Gary Pierce was a little too cozy with Arizona Public Service CEO Don Brandt when Pierce was on the commission.”

Excerpt The Arizona Daily Sun (7/22/15): “AG enters fray over Stump cellphone”

az sun “The Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday expanded its inquiry into allegations of improper conduct by members of the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Ryan Anderson, spokesman for the AG’s office, said his agency’s investigators believe the phone that had been used by Commissioner Bob Stump in 2014 is relevant to the inquiry they have now been conducting for months on activities at the commission going back to 2012.”

Arizona Attorney General Brnovich’s Investigators Seize Bob Stump’s Phone

Will It Be a Cover Up? Or a Genuine Attempt to Find Out the Truth?

 

Arizona Attorney General Brnovich’s Investigators Seize Bob Stump’s Phone

Ariz. Attorney General Mark Brnovich

Late yesterday, we learned that investigators from the Arizona Attorney General’s office had taken Bob Stump’s iPhone 5 out of the Arizona Corporation Commission’s safe and removed it as part of a probe into a whistleblower’s allegations of improper activity at the Commission.

That’s a curious development.

According to a confidential source at the Commission, the Attorney General was set to dismiss the whistleblower’s claims until we published on May 20 our findings that former Chairman Stump’s text messages supported the whistleblower’s allegations about Stump. It was thought to be not the right time to sweep it under the rug.

Now, two months later, Attorney General Brnovich’s investigators seem to have changed their minds by deciding to download the contents of Stump’s phone themselves.

We hope that’s the motivation.

Whether the seizure of Bob Stump’s phone and the incriminating text messages it may contain from the Commission’s safe is a good or bad thing will be determined by which Attorney General Brnovich shows up. Will it be the one who got elected with huge campaign contributions from Arizona Public Service, so beholden that he recused himself from the investigation of the whistleblower because of those contributions?  If so, then probe of the Corporation Commission and Bob Stump will likely be slow walked or downplayed, and Arizonans will never learn the truth about Bob Stump’s activities.

But if the one who shows up is an Attorney General who wants to have his career prosecutors go after the truth, then that’s a good thing. Right now, it’s up to Attorney General Brnovich to decide which version of him shows up to handle this seizure and who he serves – APS or the people of Arizona.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

Checks and Balances Project Welcomes New Senior Fellow Evlondo Cooper

Checks and Balances Project Welcomes New Senior Fellow Evlondo CooperMy name is Evlondo Cooper and I’d like to introduce myself as Check and Balances’ new senior fellow. Checks and Balances Project provides an invaluable service by demanding transparency and accountability around issues such as the environment, clean energy and public health. These are issues I care about deeply.

As a former Orleans Parish criminal investigator for nearly three years, I often had to persuade crime victims and witnesses to testify in open court at great personal risk to themselves. Watching these courageous individuals, I realized that people are willing to take brave actions if the truth is on their side and their cause is just.

I hope to use my investigative skills to expose those trying to obscure and distort the truth about climate change and clean energy.

I was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and still carry many unpleasant memories from that difficult time. After the Great Recession began in 2008, I started an economic blog to educate my readers and myself about what led to the collapse of the global economy. Both of these events taught me the necessity of fighting for strong, transparent civic and political institutions committed to upholding the public trust.

Now, I’m proud and humbled to finally work with Checks and Balances Project, dedicated to informing the public about how and why decisions are made, asking tough questions and holding policymakers, corporate managers and lobbyists accountable. The days ahead promise to be quite interesting.

Evlondo Cooper, Senior Fellow, Checks and Balances Project

 

(Note: Senior Fellow Joel Francis is on leave from the Project for personal reasons.)

University of Virginia Study Finds 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center’s Energy Analysis Relied Upon by Gov. McAuliffe and Legislature

University of Virginia Study Finds 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center’s Energy Analysis Relied Upon by Gov. McAuliffe and Legislature

Gov. McAuliffe announces Energy Plan (photo: Craig Carper)

In a study released last week, energy expert Dr. William Shobe of the University of Virginia dismantles the key, state-sanctioned analysis of how Virginia should meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions.

That analysis, produced last fall by a team led by Dr. Michael Karmis, director of the Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, is part of the Virginia Energy Plan and is relied upon by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the legislature as they make decisions about the state’s energy future.

“In short, the report is almost certainly worse than no study at all because it misstates likely costs, analyzes irrelevant options, and gives short shrift to the cases that really matter,” writes Shobe.

A professor of public policy and director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies, Dr. Shobe’s research focuses on climate change, greenhouse gas markets, and auction design. Shobe was part of the team that designed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for nine Northeast states, a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions that has generated $1.3 billion in economic benefits and 14,000 job-years over the past three years.

“Old Boy” Selection Process

Is Karmis Too Conflicted to Analyze How Virginia Can Respond to Fed’s Clean Power Plan?

Michael Karmis, Ph.D

Last fall, we questioned why Dr. Karmis – who is an international consultant to the coal industry – had been chosen by the McAuliffe Administration’s Dept. of Mines, Minerals & Energy (DMME) to write a 199-page analysis of how Virginia should best meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan.  By repeatedly evading my basic questions about how and why he was chosen, Karmis and DMME only heightened suspicions about what appears to be an “old boy” selection process heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry.

But now it is clear that the process was more than unseemly: the sloppy, coal-friendly conclusions of Karmis’ report are contributing to Virginia status as an also-ran in clean energy development.

Notable problems Shobe found with Karmis’ analysis include:

  • Double counts compliance costs by about $400 million annually because the authors added together two different estimates of compliance costs.
  • Made a calculation mistake that cut the estimated benefits of emission reductions by more than 40%.
  • Used inappropriate and incomplete economic analysis in estimating total economic costs and associated job losses, inflating cost and job losses.
  • Misinterpreted, on at least two occasions, analysis provided by the EPA in the EPA’s regulatory impact analysis of its proposed rule.

(For a full list of errors, click here.)

In addition to reviewing Karmis’ analysis, Professor Shobe makes useful recommendations to ensure state agencies such as DMME, the Dept. of Environmental Quality, and the State Corporation Commission are able to properly assess studies presented to them.

An Impartial Coal Expert? 

Virginia is having a critical conversation about Clean Power Plan compliance options and strategies. Citizens must ask themselves: should the Commonwealth’s policymakers continue to rely upon an energy analysis produced by coal expert Michael Karmis that we now know is utterly flawed?

Last November, I concluded a post by asking whether Dr. Karmis was too conflicted to write a document the governor and legislature would depend upon as an unbiased, informed look at how the state can best respond to the Clean Power Plan. By submitting a report with flawed methodology, basic factual errors and biased conclusions in favor of the coal industry, it seems the answer regarding Dr. Karmis’s conflicts is a resounding yes.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

Top Headlines, July 17th, 2015

Excerpt From The Arizona Republic (7/15/15): “Timeline: Utility regulator text debate”

“March 2015: Through the state public records law, the Checks and Balances Project, a Washington, D.C.-area watchdog group, requests text messages Stump sent as far back as 2013.

April 2015: The Corporation Commission responds to Checks and Balances Project saying the texts are not available. It provides a log of times and dates messages were sent and contact numbers…”

Excerpt From The Arizona Republic (7/15/15): “Phoenix PD declines to inspect regulator’s phone”

“A government watchdog group called the Checks and Balances Project requested the messages under the state public-records law, and so far the utility regulators have not turned over the messages to the Washington, D.C.-area group.

The commission has agreed to allow the phone to be inspected to comply with the records request, but has been unable to find a law enforcement agency to conduct the inspection, and the cell company said the messages are not available on its system.”

Excerpt From The Arizona Daily Star (7/16/15): “Steller: People complicate Arizona’s simple public-records law”

“The commission has stalled and stalled as a solar-industry affiliated group, the Checks and Balances Project, demanded the content of text messages sent by Commissioner Bob Stump on his commission-issued phone.

As you may recall, the project has discovered that in the run-up to last year’s primary election, Stump exchanged many messages with the leader of a dark-money group, as well as with candidates he and the group supported for the Corporation Commission. The implication was that Stump could have illegally coordinated an independent-expenditure campaign.”

Excerpt From The Arizona Daily Star (7/16/15): “Effort to retrieve ACC board member’s texts continues”

““The next step is to look for a trusted and well-credentialed private lab,” she said, one that has experience in finding deleted electronic data, but said giving the phone to a private company could raise “chain of custody concerns.”

The delay has frustrated Dan Barr, the attorney for the Checks and Balances Project, which has been pursuing the content of the texts for months.

Barr has a replacement in mind and the Checks and Balances Project would pay for those services ‘under the watchful eye of ACC attorneys.'”

Excerpt From Verde Independent (7/14/15): “Arizona Corporation Commission goes on offensive to solve deleted texts problem”

“The Arizona Corporation Commission is obtaining software designed to help ensure the public has a chance from now on of getting access to text messages of state utility regulators. But for the moment it will be up to the regulators to decide whether to use it.”

Excerpt From The Arizona Eagletarian (7/15/15): “Who REALLY should supervise forensic examination of Bob Stump’s cell phone?”

“The Phoenix Police Department has also refused to handle the forensic analysis of Stump’s phone to see if any text messages are retrievable, according to an email sent from Assistant City Attorney Jennifer LaRoque to Corp Comm executive director Jodi Jerich. Last week, DPS also refused the job, saying there is no allegation of criminal activity involved in the controversy.”

massive Checks logo

Utah State’s Ryan Yonk: Same Soup, Different Bowl

Koch-backed research fellow prepares to push misinformation in front of Ohio RPS study committee.

Utah State’s Ryan Yonk: Same Soup, Different Bowl

Ryan Yonk

Since being burned for a misleading op-ed that he wrote for Newsweek, Utah State University (USU) Prof. Randy Simmons is letting his colleague, Dr. Ryan Yonk, bat “cleanup.” But if Yonk’s work on behalf of Koch-funded organizations goes unchallenged, Ohio’s economy and environment will likely suffer the consequences.

Despite the renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards passing with bipartisan support and that proved to be hugely beneficial for Ohio, there has been a concerted effort by the fossil fuel industry to weaken or repeal them. The latest example is a state legislative hearing set for next Monday (July 20th) where many of the invited speakers, like Professor Ryan Yonk, have a hidden agenda funded by out-of-state fossil fuel interests.

Background on Ohio’s RPS Freeze and Study Committee

Last year, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a law that froze the successful renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The RPS requires the increased production of energy from renewable sources. While ostensibly giving lawmakers time to study this anti-RPS law, the policy has led to a number of negative consequences for the state, according to a report published by the Center for American Progress (CAP). Business leaders interviewed by CAP have reported having to lay off or freeze the hiring of new employees, move operations to other more renewable-energy supportive states or cancel projects as a result.

As the Energy Mandates Study Committee, made up of state Ohio Senate and House members and the chair of the Public Utilities Commission, gathers information for its final recommendations due September 30th, the usual anti-clean energy suspects are rearing their heads, touting the same discredited research, funded by the same fossil fuel front organizations. The Strata Institute, founded by Ryan Yonk, Randy Simmons and Chris Fawson, is one of the most visible and disreputable. Strata has published similar misleading studies on RPS laws in North Carolina and also Kansas.

Uncloaking the Funding Sources of Fossil Fuel Pundits

As I mentioned earlier, Simmons, the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at USU, was recently involved in a scandal that stemmed from his failure to disclose his ties with the Koch brothers in his April 11th op-ed for Newsweek. During my interview with him shortly after, he made a number of inaccurate statements regarding his cozy relationship with the Kochs, but ultimately admits to his funding ties to them when pressed:

Utah State’s Ryan Yonk: Same Soup, Different Bowl Koch-backed research fellow prepares to push misinformation in front of Ohio RPS study committee.

Maybe this is why Strata is sending Ryan Yonk to promote Strata’s hidden agenda before the study committee next Monday.

Despite the dubious assertions in the Strata report, studies have shown the benefits of RPS far outweigh the costs. For example, wind energy significantly reduces energy prices for consumers and transmission lines benefit customers, among others.

The questionable rigor of Yonk’s USU report on Ohio’s RPS, coupled with his work for another Koch-funded group, the Mercatus Center, means that he has serious problems with the credibility of his research. For example, his report ignores the fact that the RPS was put in place to balance Ohio’s energy portfolio and hedge against fluctuations in coal and natural gas prices.

Study Committee Members: Beware of the Source

With this in mind, why would they send him before the Ohio study committee instead of Randy Simmons? Is it because Yonk has a lower profile right now, and his appearance would not draw as much scrutiny?

Before making their final recommendations about the future of the RPS, it is vital that the members of the RPS study committee and the public have complete transparency about the true agenda of the Koch brothers, Strata and, especially, Ryan York.

Ohio’s future deserves more than just smoke and mirrors. Learn more about the Energy Mandates Study Committee here.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

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