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Arizona Corporation Commissioner Asks AG To Weigh In On APS Political Spending

Commissioner Bob Burns
(Photo courtesy of Arizona Corporation Commission)
Commissioner Bob Burns

Does Arizona law give regulators the power to gather information on a utility’s lobbying activity, as well as political and charitable contributions?

Attorney General Mark Brnovich will have to answer that question for Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns, who on Tuesday requested a formal opinion on the matter. 

For months, the commissioner has been threatening to exercise his subpoena power. He wants to determine whether Arizona Public Service was behind millions in so-called "dark money" to support the candidacies of two commissioners in the 2014 election cycle.

Burns has argued he has such authority because spending is relevant to rate making and protecting the public interest.

ARS 40-241, the law Burns is citing, states: "The commission, each commissioner and person employed by the commission may, at any time, inspect the accounts, books, papers and documents of any public service corporation, and any of such persons who are authorized to administer oaths may examine under oath any officer, agent or employee of such corporation in relation to the business and affairs of the corporation."

Burns is also requesting Brnovich explain if the statute permits commissioners to examine "the degree to which a public service corporation and its affiliates are intertwined in terms of organization, operations and structure." 

APS has declined to reveal this information or to promise not to spend money on future races. 

The Attorney General's office did not have a comment on Burns' request.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The headline on this story has been modified to clarify the scope of Commissioner Bob Burns' question.

Updated 2/10/2016 at 9:40 a.m.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.