An analysis of the text message metadata of Bob Stump, former chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), reveals in the weeks leading up to the primary election on August 26, 2014, Stump exchanged hundreds of texts with a dark money leader, an attorney tied to Arizona Public Service (APS), an APS executive, and the two pro-utility ACC candidates who ultimately won the primary and general elections. The timing and recipients of Commissioner Stump’s text messages may lend support to the claims of whistleblower Antonio Gill that Stump knew of the dark money scheme.
The office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is investigating Gill’s allegations. But Brnovich has recused himself after receiving significant help from APS in his election.
The two winning ACC candidates, Republican Commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little, ran against two pro-solar Republicans, Vernon Parker and Lucy Mason supported by TUSK (“Tell Utilities Solar Won’t be Killed). Parker and Mason expressed their belief before the primary that APS was donating to the Arizona Free Enterprise Club to support their opponents. The utility has not denied involvement with the campaign.
Arizona Free Enterprise Club
New information uncovered by Checks and Balances Project records requests reveal that Stump has exchanged 100 texts with Scot Mussi, president and sole board member of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. His organization was a big spender in electing Little and Forese, and was second only to another dark money group, Save Our Future Now.
Others whom Stump texted with in the weeks before the important primary election were Garry D. Hays, an attorney affiliated with APS’s Arizona Solar Deployment Alliance, and Barbara Lockwood, APS’s General Manager for Regulatory Policy and Compliance.
As Commissioner Stump received reimbursement for his Verizon cell phone on which he sent and received text messages, if he was organizing funding for Little’s and Forese’s campaigns, was he involved in illegal electioneering using public funds?
What is the content of Stump’s text messages with Mussi, Hays, Lockwood, and the two commissioners? We hope to find out very soon. According to a Verizon senior customer representative, if the text messages are subpoenaed by an attorney, and a judge agrees, the entire text of the messages will be provided.
Overall, Stump sent or received 36,762 texts during a 17-month period from roughly July 2013 to March 2015 – the most contentious period of solar debate in Arizona.
In previous posts, Checks and Balances Project has demonstrated:
- Stump used personal email for public business.
- Stump met regularly with top APS executives who are registered as lobbyists.
- Stump had a chummy email relationship with APS’s Barbara Lockwood, who even went so far as to warn him about the pro-solar TUSK group’s phone bank for the two pro-solar GOP candidates.
During an earlier two-month period – October through November 2013 – when Arizona became the first state to establish a monthly utility fee for residential rooftop solar customers, Stump sent or received 7,832 text messages. That’s an average of 70 text messages per day! Who was he texting with during this period? We may know soon.
As part of our Captured Regulators Initiative, Checks and Balances Project is scrutinizing the actions of public utility commissioners in several states. Electric utilities around the nation are now attempting to replicate Arizona’s historic rooftop solar fee in a wave of attacks on net metering. But does that effort by utilities benefit the overwhelming majority of consumers who want low-cost solar or the financial interests of government-supported monopoly utilities?
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.