Wednesday, April 11, 2018


(UPDATE, 4/12/18: APS responded to Arizona's Politics' emails after hours last night. Though they didn't answer the specific questions, their statement is incorporated at the end of this article.)

Arizona Public Service continues ramping up for both state and federal elections this year, with the new news that Pinnacle West (APS' parent) has given $1.2M to federal SuperPACs in this election cycle - more than any other public corporation in the nation.

Arizona's Politics earlier reported that PinnWest had re-started its elections money machine by contributing $150,000 to groups who will be supporting Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich in their re-election campaigns. And, there has been widespread reporting on APS's spending money to oppose an initiative effort related to renewable energy.

However, the $1,160,000 which PinnWest has already contributed to Arizona Grassroots Action PAC since the last election is large in its own right. This nearly doubles its contribution to AGA in all of 2016, which was used to support the re-election of Sen. John McCain (both in the primary and in the general).

It is not clear who controls where the AGA PAC spends its money, and which campaign(s) it might get involved in. Significantly, though, APS/PinnWest has contributed about half of the $1.2M before Sen. Jeff Flake announced he would not seek re-election, and slightly more than half after the (Oct. 24) announcement.

In a pattern of APS now going the early money route, its AGA support is stronger and earlier than it was in previous election cycles.  (AGA has had an interesting record of both contributors and disbursements.)

Pinnacle West's activity put it at the pinnacle of publicly-owned corporations* contributing to federal SuperPACs in this campaign cycle, according to research by the Washington Post. (The article notes billionaires Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are conspicuously absent; that couple has been a key Arizona Grassroots Action contributor in the past.)

Arizona's Politics' articles about the stepped-up APS/PinnWest activity come even as the court battle over forcing the utility to divulge details about its prodigious - and, largely dark** - 2014 political spending continues. In February, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley dismissed Corporation Commissioner Robert Burns' lawsuit to enforce his subpoenas; the parties are wrangling over the form of judgment and a motion to amend the complaint.

Arizona's Politics has reached out to PinnWest for responses, and will supplement this article as warranted.   In response to detailed questions from Arizona's Politics, APS' Media Relations Manager Jenna Powell issued the following company statement:
As Arizona’s largest and longest-serving energy company, a major employer and the state’s largest taxpayer, we are heavily invested in and dedicated to Arizona’s success. The policies set by our lawmakers and regulators have significant implications for our customers, employees and shareholders, and that is why we participate in the political process and advocate for pro-business policies that support a responsible and sustainable energy future for Arizona. We are fully transparent about our participation; in fact, we voluntarily go beyond what disclosure laws require by annually publishing a comprehensive list of our political contributions, funded by Pinnacle West shareholders – not APS customers.
APS declined to comment on its #1 in the nation status or the extent of its involvement with AGA PAC, and why it chose to put so many eggs in AGA's basket. APS also did not voluntarily disclose any political contributions it made in the 1st quarter of this calendar year, or its political budget for the rest of this year.

PinnWest's political participation web page does disclose the AGA contributions. It also discloses the $3.2M spent to oppose the renewable energy initiative spearheaded by billionaire Tom Steyer (first reported on by Arizona Capital Media's Howie Fischer). The $750,000 given to the Arizona Cattle Feeders' Association was APS' 3rd largest contribution last year.

*APS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pinnacle West. It is the largest government-regulated utility in Arizona.
**APS was admittedly a player in the flood of dark money in the 2014 campaign, as frequently documented in Arizona's Politics' #50ShadesOfDarkMoney series.

If you would like to show your appreciation for Arizona's Politics reporting, please consider donating to our pool to support OTHER journalism-related nonprofits. 

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com or call 602-799-7025. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Follow the money. Directed at arms length by McCain. Then follow the personnel and staffing of the entities that get the money. Next election cycle the same staffing and personnel just rotate out to another entity. Usually all directed by folks related to or worked for McCain. It's a never ending hamster wheel of cash and prizes for McCain folks. Many are liberal Republicans who proactively push for the gay lobby agenda and same sex marriage.

Mitch M. said...

Thanks for the comment, Anon! As you might already know, we do attempt to follow the money, and have written several articles about AGA over the past 4 years. That said, we frequently point out common vendors/donors/etc, but tend to be very cautious about reaching definitive conclusions. They are data points, but do not prove control.

We do frequently ask these individuals/groups about the connections. As you might expect - as APS did last night - they generally decline to answer.