Checks and Balances Project has presented powerful circumstantial evidence of coordination. The only way that Stump can clear his name is to produce the actual texts that prove he was not coordinating the August 2014 GOP primary election with Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) candidates Forese and Little, their campaign manager Alan Heywood, dark money electoral groups, and Arizona Public Service.
The timing of the texts and the fact that he isn’t texting some of these “friends” outside the period of high activity before the primary when Noble and Heywood enter the fray makes Stump’s explanation extremely dubious. In his recent public statements, he only references his friendship with Scot Mussi of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. What about the others, Mr. Commissioner?
Stump used a method to communicate that he thought no one would ever discover, especially when he “immediately deleted the messages.” But it has backfired on him. The only way that he can convince people that he was not coordinating is to produce the texts that he thought that he has destroyed.
If the ACC does not recover the text messages, Stump is left with is a lame “my dog ate my homework” excuse.
According to the Commission, a retired Superior Court judge and a state police force staff member will gather on Friday at ACC offices to download existing text messages from Commissioner Bob Stump’s cell phone. The downloaded results will then be reviewed to determine which messages are public records, and they will then provide the messages to us in response to our records request.
Based on conversations we have had with our technology forensics expert, one of two things is going to happen as a result of this process:
Scenario 1, the “non-court scenario”: Commissioner Bob Stump has not been successful in his attempts to destroy the text messages. The messages are successfully downloaded. The outsiders (who, it’s worth noting, have been picked by the ACC) are not willing to tolerate gamesmanship in screening the resulting messages. Checks and Balances Project gets the messages and they match the logs that ACC has provided. Arizonans finally get to the bottom of the seemingly damning pattern and timing of messages Stump had with key players in last year’s dark money electoral scheme.
Scenario 2, the “we have to go to court scenario”: Stump has taken steps to destroy the text messages off his SIM card, or they were not transferred from his old iPhone 3…
“It was literally crumbling in my hands and was not recyclable,” Stump told the Arizona Republic’s Ryan Randazzo. Crumbling? How does that happen?
… and they have not survived the switches he has made from one, taxpayer-reimbursed cell phone to the next. Or, the messages are there, but the ACC puts a heavy screen on what is a “public” record. We get an anemic set of text messages that doesn’t come close to matching the text log provided by the Commission previously.
The expensive and thoroughly unnecessary game playing by the ACC results in us having to go to court, and we succeed in convincing a judge to review the download of Stump’s text messages. We get them, analyze them, and release the results to the public online. Here as well, Arizonans finally get to the bottom of what Stump said in those text messages.
Scenario 3, the “we’re left with circumstantial evidence scenario”: there’s nothing of value found by the exam of Stump’s cell phone and Verizon cannot provide us with text message content. Attorney General Brnovich doesn’t investigate. No one in the Arizona legislature pursues the matter. Bob Stump and the Commission breathe a sign of relief as he continues to maintain that his mad texting was just to arrange trips to the symphony and the like with friends.
That would lead us to the next chapter of this sorry saga. After all, text messages aren’t the only method of uncovering definitive evidence that Commissioner Stump may be a captured regulator.
For a growing list of Commission members, staff and contractors, the question now emerging is: Do you want to stake your respective reputation and credibility by defending Bob Stump’s extensive (and potentially illegal) involvement with all the key players in last year’s dark money electoral scheme?
It might be your dice to roll, but it’s still a gamble. The days ahead will be interesting nonetheless.
P.S. Dear ACC outside counsel David Cantelme: We are still awaiting the list of Stump’s purely personal phone numbers, so we can remove them from the list of Stump’s most frequent text message contacts. It’s been nearly a week since you said you would deliver them to our attorney. The removal offer stands.
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.