The Arizona Corporation Commission is considered the fourth branch of our state government. It is established in the state Constitution and is led by five commissioners who are directly elected by the voters. In other states, the ACC would be known as the public utilities commission or public service commission, and its members appointed, not elected.
The ACC has a direct impact on most everyone because it regulates public utilities which, in turn, determine how much you pay for your energy use. The commission sets policies on other things that affect many of us as well, for instance, development of alternative energy sources like solar and where power plants and transmission lines are located.
The ACC’s role in regulating our utilities is important, but our ACC does much more. In just the Utilities Division, the ACC has regulatory responsibilities for electric, gas, telephone and water. If you start a business in Arizona, you will be in contact with the Corporation Division. Among the other divisions, the ACC has oversight of the integrity of Securities and investment advisors and Safety of railroads and pipelines.
Because the ACC is so consequential for Arizonans, it is upsetting to find the ACC and its commissioners exposed to charges of corruption, subject to a federal investigation, and suspect of collusion with the utilities it regulates. Here are themes I extracted from numerous reports in the media.
•FBI investigating outside money in commission election.
•Former ACC chair indicted on federal charges of bribery, fraud and conspiracy.
•Utility regulated by ACC currently being investigated for spending dark money in commission campaigns.
•Commissioners approved a basic rate hike granting that same utility another $95 million even though their staff determined rates should not be increased.
•Former commissioner resigned, charged with conflicts of interest.
•ACC commissioners voted against transparency in utility political expenditures.
Another way of understanding these themes is that the ACC often appears lax in its oversight role, looking the other way as its members are elected with the aid of dark money originating within the corporations it supposedly regulates.
The issues I raise will not resolve on their own. We need to elect a new set of commissioners and 2018 is the year to do it. Some of the candidates for election to the ACC will appear in Green Valley this month.
The public is invited to attend the Democratic Candidates Arizona Corporation Commission Forum on May 20 at 1:30 in the Quail Creek Ballroom. Candidates include Bill Mundell, Sandra Kennedy, Paul Newman, Kiana Sears and Jake Bell.
Please attend, and then vote for candidates with integrity and public service experience.
Bill Maki is a retired Professor of Cognitive Psychology. He lives in Green Valley.