Last week, the Arizona Corporation Commission hosted the first meeting of the newly formed Ethics Committee. The committee was created by Commissioner Tom Forese this summer due to the persistent and multi-faceted charges of unethical behavior on the part of commissioners.
Even before the committee convened, it was the subject of questions about its own ethical foundation. Specifically, Commissioner Bob Burns has questioned the cost and constitutionality of such a committee.
Burns, an ethics hawk, has worked to expose and end the undue influence of campaign contributions on commissioners. He has argued that because the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) was created to be a quasi-judicial body that oversees monopolistic public utilities, any real or perceived influence of contributions on commissioners would violate their basic job duties.
Every step of the way his fellow commissioners have fought Burns.
Burns and many others claim that the majority of commissioners have become “captives” of Arizona Public Service (APS) due to the inordinate amount of money the corporation spent on the 2014 election. “Captives” act on behalf of and in the interest of their captors. In the case of the ACC, the “captive” commissioners appear to be protecting the interests of the corporation by fighting Burns’ effort to make public those contributions.
Just last month, the “captive” commissioners stunned the public when they approved a rate increase for APS. Burns had urged his fellow commissioners to join his fight to have the corporate giant reveal its contributions before a rate increase could be considered.