In several news stories, The Arizona Daily Star on May 21, The Arizona Republic on May 22, Greentech Media on May 26, and Utility Drive on May 27, former Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), Bob Stump, complained that excerpts from text message logs his agency provided were “cherry picked” to suggest he was at the heart of a dark money electoral scheme in 2014 to elect pro-utility members to the Commission. Stump asserted that the facts would show he was an equal opportunity texter.
“I would note that Checks and Balances… is cherry-picking text logs to paint an absurdly distorted picture.” – Stump to Arizona Daily Star.
“Stump told The Arizona Republic that the communications were not about the election, and said the group had cherry-picked a few text messages to distort the story.” – Stump to Arizona Republic.
In response to the Chairman’s concerns, we have published the full text log and names identified to date here.
Far from clearing Commissioner Stump, the full logs show a more damning fact set, particularly an overlap of texting with dark money electoral group head Scot Mussi, APS lobbyist Barbara Lockwood, Koch Industries operative Sean Noble, and then-candidate (now Commissioner) Tom Forese, and more.
Look Over Here!
The best we can tell, that’s why Commissioner Stump is now attempting to switch the subject with a victim play by railing about the opposite of “cherry picking,” the publishing of the full text logs.
According to Chairman Stump in today’s Arizona Republic story by Ryan Randazzo, the act of publishing the public records what we were given by the Commission is an invasion of his privacy and an “out of bounds” attack on his family members.
Before Mr. Stump invests more in playing the victim, it’s important to consider some inconvenient facts:
- The request did nothing to the ACC’s ability – and its responsibility – to sift out Mr. Stump’s private messages from public business he chose to transact on his taxpayer-funded cell phone.
- We have no interest in Mr. Stump’s personal life. We are out to enforce public access to public records.
- We also have no ability – or responsibility – to know the roster of Mr. Stump’s friends and family to screen the list. That responsibility rested on the ACC, and it chose not to do so. We asked for public records that we said we’d publish, and we published them.
- Nonetheless, we instructed our attorney, Dan Barr, to ask the ACC’s outside attorney, David Cantelme, to give us the names of any family members of friends with whom Mr. Stump had strictly personal business. Mr. Barr did so in a conversation with Mr. Cantelme, who said he would ask Mr. Stump. As of this writing, we are still awaiting a response. However, the offer stands to give us those names and numbers so we can review, evaluate and act on them.
- The evaluating step is important because Mr. Stump has strained credulity by claiming that he needed over 70 text messages with dark money electoral group director, Scot Mussi, to arrange a trip to the symphony.
- Mr. Stump might be asserting that the Checks and Balances Project is “left wing,” but the Commissioner can take comfort in knowing that a growing roster of Democratic officials (here, here and here) also dislike the inconvenient questions asked of them.
Free the Text Messages Content!
Probably the most important fact is that all of this back-and-forth is unnecessary, including the Commission’s hiring of an outside, taxpayer-funded attorney, David Cantelme; and an outside PR firm (we are investigating the hiring of these outside firms and their costs to Arizonans).
This is a straightforward matter with a straightforward resolution. The Commission already has the subpoena power to ask Verizon to provide the text messages that we are told don’t exist. In fact, in all likelihood, they do. With literally a phone call and the strike of a “send” button, the ACC could have the list of text messages and provide them to us.
Finally, I would like to thank all the citizens who are stepping forward to help us identify the unknown parties with whom Commissioner Stump had been exchanging text messages. More about that soon.
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.