APS and its parent company Pinnacle West have been two of Arizona Democrats’ favorite punching bags for the last several years, and the pace of that pummeling picked up substantially after the tragic and unnecessary death of APS customer Stephanie Pullman, who died after the power was shut off to her home due to non-payment.
On June 20th, Arizona House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez wanted the world to notice her tweeting out that she had changed her plans and joined protesters at an Arizona Chamber of Commerce event at which APS CEO Don Brandt was bring honored. Fernandez, who has made a habit of this sort of virtue signaling, tweeted that her “plan was to be inside the Chamber event but I stand with @ChispaAZ and @ChampPR. APS puts profits over people. #expensivetobepoorinAZ”
Missing from most coverage of this stunt was that Fernandez and her fellow progressives have accepted numerous contributions from the company over the years and have kept the money.
While Republicans have received more overall contributions from APS, Democrat efforts to connect only Republicans to APS and Pinnacle West is dishonest at best.
The fact of the matter is that progressive hacks and those hacks posing as opinion columnists gloss over or flat out ignore a river of contributions flowing to some of the biggest Democratic names in the state, along with the Arizona Democratic Party itself.
We reached out to members of the Democratic Caucus who had received campaign contributions. Responses ranged from forthright and prompt to none at all.
Rep. Mitzi Epstein:
From: Mitzi Epstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sunday, June 23, 2019 5:37 PM
This email appears to be a campaign matter.
Please address all campaign-related email to my personal email address: Mitzi@azeps.net
Mitzi Epstein, Representative
Ranking Member on Ways and Means Committee
Epstein then failed to respond to the same question forwarded to her personal email account.
Rep. Kristen Engel was on the opposite of the spectrum. Not only did she personally respond, she appropriately had her campaign manager respond as well:
From: Chris Gast <email@example.com>
Sent: Sunday, June 23, 2019 9:01 PM
I can confirm that the Engel Campaign did not receive or deposit any funds from the Pinnacle West Corporation. I’m including a screenshot from the Arizona Secretary of State’s website (“See The Money” Search). You can see that Pinnacle West declared a contribution, but later retracted that contribution September 28, 2018 (listed as income / return of money into their general account).
Kirsten Engel for State Senate
Sen. Martin Quezada responded in the affirmative, but as a consummate politician attempted to spin:
From: Martin Quezada <MQuezada@azleg.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, June 25, 2019 2:53 PM
I have accepted small contributions from Pinnacle West/APS in the past but never in amounts that were in any way significant. All past contributions are past and already spent. 2020 campaign decisions will be made by my campaign team and not through my Senate office.
I will say however,(sic) in the past I accepted those contributions knowing that APS was not the most ethical player in AZ politics or their energy policy. I’ve also used those funds to get elected and become one of, if not their strongest, critic as a member of the legislature. I don’t know or care whether their contributions were made to try to influence my voice, but they certainly did not have that effect and I believe my track record speaks for itself in that regard. I cannot speak to their decisions or motivations not to give me more significant contributions like they have given to other members of the legislature who have been much less critical of APS.
And then there is Sen. David Bradley, whose response actually raised more questions about his motivations than it answered:
From: David Bradley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, June 24, 2019 10:01 AM
I am out of the state for a couple of weeks, when I get back I’ll figure out what they contributed in the last cycle and likely give it to a nonprofit that helps folks pay their utility bills. Since I am not running for office after this term I don’t anticipate receiving any contributions. If I do I will forward them on to the nonprofit.
Sent from my iPhone
Isn’t there a law against taking money under false pretenses? There should be. If Bradley is accepting contributions knowing that he is not running again isn’t that like selling something you don’t own?
It is not inconsistent to accept money from a cause or group that you have some disagreements with. You may well agree with them much more than you disagree with them. But what Fernandez and the Democrats are doing is declaring APS/Pinnacle West to be bad actors, of putting profits over people, of having evil intent. Under those circumstances, taking and keeping the money makes it clear that the Democrats passing judgment are practicing rank hypocrisy, or more likely, they don’t feel that way about APS and Pinnacle West at all. They’re just being harshly critical as a political stunt. Like voting NO on education funding and teacher pay increases, then campaigning on the need for more education funding and teacher pay increases. And APS and Pinnacle West are likely in on the game, as the next round of political contributions will almost certainly include most or all of these same critical voices. Voters should take note.