3,598 Text Messages in Question
Judge David Cole is now examining “thousands of text messages” downloaded by Arizona Attorney General’s office investigators from Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump’s taxpayer-provided smartphone. The phone was seized as part of an investigation into a whistleblower’s claims of misconduct on the troubled Commission.
For months, we’ve sought access to Stump’s text messages to determine what role Stump played in a dark money electoral scheme by which Arizona Public Service (APS) seems to have installed its own regulators to ensure its profits.
The Commission went to great lengths to oppose our efforts to enforce public access to these public records. These included hiring an expensive attorney and a public relations operative with no-bid contracts. Stump, the Commission, and attorney David Cantelme have been tripped up in a series of denials that were later shown to be false.
For example, they said that the text messages are no longer available (not true) and that Stump had only two phones when he had at least three plus a tablet. We have gotten no answer to the question of whether or not Bob Stump lied to Mr. Cantelme about his phones.
Spiral of Riddles
According to our analysis of Verizon monthly statements provided by the Corporation Commission, Stump sent or received 36,762 texts during a 17-month period from roughly July 2013 to March 2015. That’s an average of 1,838 texts a month or about 61 texts a day on his taxpayer-provided iPhones.
No wonder Arizona Republic Columnist Laurie Roberts once referred to Commissioner Stump as the “mad texter.”
The questions are not why he texted so furiously over a phone paid for by the citizens of Arizona or what he was saying to family and friends. But rather:
- Was Commissioner Bob Stump conducting public business by text messages because he thought they would never be seen?
- Why did he fight so doggedly to prevent them from being seen?
- Were the suspicious patterns of texts during the final two weeks of July, 2014, simply arranging dates to the symphony and sending friendly notes between friends?
- Or was Stump coordinating the electoral funding for candidates, now-Commissioners, Doug Little and Tom Foresee with APS’ Barbara Lockwood, their Campaign Manager Alan Heywood, Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Scot Mussi, and Sean Noble, reputed to be a conduit for the Koch Bros. bottomless dark money?
Illegal electioneering, if proven, would damage the public trust, and hurt Arizona taxpayers who pay electric bills based on rates set by Stump and fellow commissioners.
Despite Commissioner Stump’s protests, text messages with his family or friends are of no interest to us. That’s why on August 8, 2015, C&BP Attorney Dan Barr sent a letter to Cantelme and Paul Ahler of the Attorney General’s Fraud and Public Corruption Section with a list of 18 names and phone numbers belonging to people who conducted business before the commission that are the focus of our interest.
Last week, Barr provided to Judge Cole a spreadsheet with the metadata – dates, times, durations, sender and receiver – of the 3,598 text messages in question. You can see them HERE.
There is no current timeline for Judge Cole’s review. However, given how long these straightforward questions have gone unanswered, we will all be very interested in his findings.
Scott Peterson is executive director of 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.