Special interests won the day in the race for the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) in 2012, and the Arizona public got legally swindled.
Last week, it was revealed the Arizona and National Association of Realtors spent $186,000 supporting Republican ACC candidates Bob Stump, Susan Bitter-Smith and Bob Burns, who beat Democrats Paul Newman, Sandra Kennedy, and Marcia Busching on November 6th. The realtors funded two mailers targeting swing voters just days before Election Day.
In a clean elections contest where general election funds are limited to $137,811 per candidate, the realtor’s expenditure could have plausibly made up the deficit between the candidates (roughly 70,000 votes separated Democrats Newman and Kennedy from Susan Bitter-Smith).
The reason for the realtor’s intervention was simple. As Commissioners, Newman and Kennedy objected to the practice of granting free electric line extensions for homes constructed away from existing utility poles. Newman and Kennedy believed it unfair for the public-at-large to subsidize line extensions for poorly planned housing developments, increasing rates for everyone so that a few could get a sweet deal.
Those in the sustainability world would call the handout a “subsidy for sprawl”. Those in the economics world would call it interference in the marketplace.
It cannot be a good omen for our new Republican Commissioners that their support for a corporate handout was the issue that potentially raised them to office — an office whose purpose is to protect ratepayers from corporate abuse.
(Paul Newman’s Campaign Manager in 2012)