Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump’s Top Aide Goes to APS

Commissioner Bob Stump’s Top Aide Goes to APS

Amanda Ho

Bob Stump’s Policy Advisor Amanda Ho has resigned from the Arizona Corporation Commission and is going to work for Arizona Public Service (APS).  Wonder how that came about?

We thought she didn’t know anyone over there.

On March 11, 2015, we sent our first records request to Commissioner Stump, and asked to see “public records that relate to communications by yourself [and] Policy Advisor Amanda Ho… about solar energy or net metering in Arizona with any representatives of Arizona Public Service Company or Pinnacle West Capital Corporation.” Our request covered the 17 months of two rate cases.

But Ms. Ho had no relevant emails with APS. This was during the time period when, under her boss the chairman’s leadership, Arizona became the first state to establish a monthly charge for APS rooftop solar customers.

She had no text messages with APS either. Although we know she and her boss, Bob Stump, exchanged 609 texts during the 17 month period.

Commissioner Bob Stump’s Top Aide Goes to APSAnd as far her calendar was concerned, Ms. Ho – or someone – had a field day with a black marking pen. When we counted up the number of her meetings that were illegally redacted or hidden from the public, out of a total of 515 meetings, 166 were blacked out – 32%.

On August 5, we sent a letter to the Commission and pointed out that under Arizona Public Records Law § 39-121.01(D)(2), you cannot simply black out meetings but instead must provide an index of records or categories of records that have been withheld from your calendar and the reasons the records or categories of records have been withheld.

The response was definitive:

Commissioner Bob Stump’s Top Aide Goes to APS

Who spends a third of their time at work on personal business?  Will she be allowed to do that at APS?

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

Why Was Barrett Marson Hired as Spokesman for the Arizona Corporation Commission?

No competitive bid process, no conflict vetting, association with checkered efforts – all at considerable expense to Arizona Taxpayers

Why Was Barrett Marson Hired as Spokesman for the Arizona Corporation Commission?

Barrett Marson

On June 19, the day that our attorney, Dan Barr, sent a letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) demanding access to former Chairman Bob Stump’s cell phone, ACC Executive Director Jodi Jerich fired long-time Commission spokesperson Rebecca Wilder.

Rather than comply with our public records request and allow downloading of Stump’s text messages to determine whether not Stump had engaged in illegal electioneering, Stump and the Commission had decided to fight, at considerable expense to Arizona taxpayers

PR Consultant Barrett Marson Hired

Five days later, the ACC hired Barrett Marson to serve as the ACC’s PR consultant at $7,500 per month.

According to records obtained by the Checks and Balances Project show there was no competitive bid process to make sure taxpayers got the best deal on the contract. There is no indication of an effort to ensure Marson had no conflicts of interest. The expensive hiring of Marson raises questions about why he was selected.

Marson is a minor celebrity in Arizona GOP circles. Since October 2013, he has co-hosted “Copper Talk,” a political podcast series. His first interview was with former Arizona Treasurer, now Governor, Doug Ducey. Barrett is a former journalist and director of communications for the Arizona House of Representatives and Dept. of Corrections where, according to his website bio, he “attended four executions.” Apparently, he cares a lot about his website and even uses one of the best ranking hostingów hosting agencies.

Minutes before our deadline, the Commission’s outside counsel David Cantelme, hired at a rate of $300 an hour, let it be known that the Commission had changed tactics. Their new plan was to choose a retired judge and a state police forensic expert to download Stump’s phone, then decide whether any of the texts are public records. The plan backfired when both the state police and Phoenix police refused to get involved.

Meanwhile, Marson wasted little time, directing an elaborate diversionary campaign to take people’s eyes off the unfulfilled public records request.

Ties That Bind

Why Was Barrett Marson Hired as Spokesman for the Arizona Corporation Commission?

Robert Graham

It’s worth noting that Marson has past connections to Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s powerful chief of staff, Kirk Adams, through the dark money electoral nonprofit Americans for Responsible Leadership, where Marson was spokesman.

Graham, in the news last week for standing behind a county Republican Party executive who Donald Trump fired as his state director due to racist and religious slurs, was founding chairman of ARL and a director until becoming Arizona GOP chairman in February 2013. The Arizona GOP issued the infamous “Who Is Dan Barr?” attack video, and, according to Graham, created blog posts, a website, and a social media campaign attacking C&BP and defending Stump.

Why Was Barrett Marson Hired as Spokesman for the Arizona Corporation Commission?

Kirk Adams

Gov. Ducey’s Chief of Staff Kirk Adams was president of Americans for Responsible Leadership in 2012 and 2013. A former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, where he worked with Marson, he also founded Prosper Inc., a 501c (4) non-profit that that received money from Arizona Public Service (APS) to fight net-metering.

The $1 Million California Fine

In October 2013, — while Graham, Adams, and Marson were all associates – the California Fair Political Practices Commission and California Attorney General announced a fine of $1 million – the largest in California history – for an $11 million campaign finance money-laundering violation against Americans for Responsible Leadership and Center to Protect Patient Rights. The illegal contribution was to the Small Business Action Committee. The Center was a front group run by Sean Noble, with whom Stump texted in a burst prior to the August 26, 2014 GOP primary. Almost all of the money has been traced to billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch.

Said Marson, called a “dark-money spinmeister”at the time by the Arizona Republic, “There was no intent to skirt or deceive California officials.”

Kirk Adams called the largest campaign money-laundering violation in California history “a big old nothing-burger.”

ACC is Still Accountable to Arizonans

Marson might have been the best-qualified, lowest-cost service provider the Commission could have hired. But without a competitive bid process and conflict vetting, we are left with only the questions about why he was hired so quickly and with so little screen on his qualifications, pricing, and conflicts.

If Commissioner Stump would have simply fulfilled his legal responsibility to provide the text message records in which he conducted public business – or if Chairman Susan Bitter Smith would have investigated – Arizonans would have been saved tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary contractor expenses.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

Arizona Attorney General Brnovich’s Investigators Seize Bob Stump’s Phone

Will It Be a Cover Up? Or a Genuine Attempt to Find Out the Truth?

 

Arizona Attorney General Brnovich’s Investigators Seize Bob Stump’s Phone

Ariz. Attorney General Mark Brnovich

Late yesterday, we learned that investigators from the Arizona Attorney General’s office had taken Bob Stump’s iPhone 5 out of the Arizona Corporation Commission’s safe and removed it as part of a probe into a whistleblower’s allegations of improper activity at the Commission.

That’s a curious development.

According to a confidential source at the Commission, the Attorney General was set to dismiss the whistleblower’s claims until we published on May 20 our findings that former Chairman Stump’s text messages supported the whistleblower’s allegations about Stump. It was thought to be not the right time to sweep it under the rug.

Now, two months later, Attorney General Brnovich’s investigators seem to have changed their minds by deciding to download the contents of Stump’s phone themselves.

We hope that’s the motivation.

Whether the seizure of Bob Stump’s phone and the incriminating text messages it may contain from the Commission’s safe is a good or bad thing will be determined by which Attorney General Brnovich shows up. Will it be the one who got elected with huge campaign contributions from Arizona Public Service, so beholden that he recused himself from the investigation of the whistleblower because of those contributions?  If so, then probe of the Corporation Commission and Bob Stump will likely be slow walked or downplayed, and Arizonans will never learn the truth about Bob Stump’s activities.

But if the one who shows up is an Attorney General who wants to have his career prosecutors go after the truth, then that’s a good thing. Right now, it’s up to Attorney General Brnovich to decide which version of him shows up to handle this seizure and who he serves – APS or the people of Arizona.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

How Long Will the Commission Stall Before Downloading Bob Stump’s Cell Phone?

How Long Will the Commission Stall Before Downloading Bob Stump’s Cell Phone?

Arizona Corp. Commission Executive Director Jody Jerich

It’s been one month since we learned that Bob Stump, former chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), “routinely deleted” text messages on his government-funded cell phone “not long after he received them.”

Through our public records counsel, Dan Barr, we informed the Commission that despite the deletions, Stump’s text messages could probably still be found on his phone’s hard drive. We proposed a leading, Valley-based electronics forensic expert who is on the state-approved vendor list. But that suggestion was ignored. We then proposed Detective Kathy Enriquez of the Phoenix Police Department, certified as an expert by the Dept. of Homeland Security, Mobile Digital Investigations program. Two weeks ago, the Commission’s outside counsel, David Cantelme, rejected our suggestion of Det. Enriquez.

Commission Executive Director Jody Jerich asked the Arizona Dept. of Public Safety for help, but they turned her down. Last week, Jerich is reported to have changed her mind and asked Phoenix Police Chief Joseph Yahne for permission to allow Det. Enriquez to perform the download of the phone.

But still no answer

Jerich has stated she is concerned that the phone’s “chain of custody” not be violated. However, the phone needs never to leave the sight of Ms. Jerich or her designate, so the chain of custody need never be in question. The entire process can be videotaped. Det. Enriquez has offered to take the day off to download the phone.

Why the delay?

Three big facts hang over the entire situation:

  1. Checks and Balances Project has uncovered compelling, circumstantial evidence that Commissioner Stump might have been illegally coordinating the August 26, 2014 GOP primary election with key dark money electoral scheme players. The roster includes: ACC then-candidates now Commissioners Forese and Little, their campaign manager Alan Heywood, dark money electoral groups, and Arizona Public Service (APS). If true, this could be a violation of campaign election laws.
  2. According to an email with the subject, “Brewing legal dispute – public records request,” provided by the Commission in response to our records request, Ms. Jerich began looking for outside counsel on April 23, 2015 – the day after receiving a request from Checks and Balances Project attorney Dan Barr for Stump’s complete cell phone records.
  3. As the Arizona Republic editorial board recently pointed out, the ACC could use its subpoena powers to demand APS to open its books for a review of any dark money electoral spending.

What was Bob Stump texting about with Forese, Little, Heywood, dark money captains Mussi and Noble, and APS’s Lockwood?  If there is nothing on the phone and nothing to hide, then why the foot-dragging and delay?

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

The Only Way for Stump to Clear His Name: Produce the Text Messages

The Only Way for Stump to Clear His Name: Produce the Text MessagesCommissioner Bob Stump must be praying that today’s examination of his state-owned iPhone 5 produces his text messages.

Checks and Balances Project has presented powerful circumstantial evidence of coordination. The only way that Stump can clear his name is to produce the actual texts that prove he was not coordinating the August 2014 GOP primary election with Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) candidates Forese and Little, their campaign manager Alan Heywood, dark money electoral groups, and Arizona Public Service.

The Only Way for Stump to Clear His Name: Produce the Text Messages

(May 5-December 29, 2014)

The timing of the texts and the fact that he isn’t texting some of these “friends” outside the period of high activity before the primary when Noble and Heywood enter the fray makes Stump’s explanation extremely dubious. In his recent public statements, he only references his friendship with Scot Mussi of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. What about the others, Mr. Commissioner?

Stump used a method to communicate that he thought no one would ever discover, especially when he “immediately deleted the messages.” But it has backfired on him. The only way that he can convince people that he was not coordinating is to produce the texts that he thought that he has destroyed.

If the ACC does not recover the text messages, Stump is left with is a lame “my dog ate my homework” excuse.

Friday’s Exam

According to the Commission, a retired Superior Court judge and a state police force staff member will gather on Friday at ACC offices to download existing text messages from Commissioner Bob Stump’s cell phone.  The downloaded results will then be reviewed to determine which messages are public records, and they will then provide the messages to us in response to our records request.

Based on conversations we have had with our technology forensics expert, one of two things is going to happen as a result of this process:

Scenario 1, the “non-court scenario”: Stump has not been successful in his attempts to destroy the text messages. The messages are successfully downloaded. The outsiders (who, it’s worth noting, have been picked by the ACC) are not willing to tolerate gamesmanship in screening the resulting messages. Checks and Balances Project gets the messages and they match the logs that ACC has provided. Arizonans finally get to the bottom of the seemingly damning pattern and timing of messages Stump had with key players in last year’s dark money electoral scheme.

Scenario 2, the “we have to go to court scenario”: Stump has taken steps to destroy the text messages off his SIM card, or they were not transferred from his old iPhone 3…

“It was literally crumbling in my hands and was not recyclable,” Stump told the Arizona Republic’s Ryan Randazzo. Crumbling? How does that happen?

… and they have not survived the switches he has made from one, taxpayer-reimbursed cell phone to the next. Or, the messages are there, but the ACC puts a heavy screen on what is a “public” record. We get an anemic set of text messages that doesn’t come close to matching the text log provided by the Commission previously.

The expensive and thoroughly unnecessary game playing by the ACC results in us having to go to court, and we succeed in convincing a judge to review the download of Stump’s text messages. We get them, analyze them, and release the results to the public online. Here as well, Arizonans finally get to the bottom of what Stump said in those text messages.

Scenario 3, the “we’re left with circumstantial evidence scenario”:  there’s nothing of value found by the exam of Stump’s cell phone and Verizon cannot provide us with text message content. Attorney General Brnovich doesn’t investigate. No one in the Arizona legislature pursues the matter. Bob Stump and the Commission breathe a sign of relief as he continues to maintain that his mad texting was just to arrange trips to the symphony and the like with friends.

That would lead us to the next chapter of this sorry saga. After all, text messages aren’t the only method of uncovering definitive evidence that Commissioner Stump may be a captured regulator.

diceFor a growing list of Commission members, staff and contractors, the question now emerging is: Do you want to stake your respective reputation and credibility by defending Bob Stump’s extensive (and potentially illegal) involvement with all the key players in last year’s dark money electoral scheme?

It might be your dice to roll, but it’s still a gamble. The days ahead will be interesting nonetheless.

P.S. Dear ACC outside counsel David Cantelme: We are still awaiting the list of Stump’s purely personal phone numbers, so we can remove them from the list of Stump’s most frequent text message contacts. It’s been nearly a week since you said you would deliver them to our attorney. The removal offer stands.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

Reader’s Tip Further Decreases Commissioner Bob Stump’s Credibility

Reader’s Tip Further Decreases Commissioner Bob Stump’s Credibility

Newly uncovered information based on a tip from a reader shows that not only was former Chairman Bob Stump of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) texting with four key players in the dark money electoral scheme prior to the August 26, 2014, primary election, he was also in contact with Alan Heywood – the campaign manager of pro-utility candidates Tom Forese and Doug Little.

In fact, the day after Stump exchanged a last text message with Sean Noble, who in the past has served as a conduit for the Koch Brothers dark money network, Stump exchanged 18 texts in just 24 hours with Heywood.

Then, his texts with the other central players soon stopped. According to Stump’s text message log, the following day, he texted for the last time with Scot Mussi, president of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and candidate (now Commissioner) Forese. Several days later, Stump stopped texting with his Arizona Public Service liaison, Barbara Lockwood, for nearly two months.

This was one month before the primary – what could be plenty of time to flush money into the campaigns of winning candidates Forese and Little. The ultimate origins of more than 75% of the spending on the ACC race that benefited Forese and Little has been a secret. But it should be noted that Noble’s largest client last year was Arizona Public Service.

We charted the texting frequency below, and the distribution pattern hardly looks like what you would expect for arranging a social function, unless Stump was planning something like a small wedding with just these six people attending:

Reader’s Tip Further Decreases Commissioner Bob Stump’s Credibility

(July 7-August 16, 2014)

Reader’s Tip Further Decreases Commissioner Bob Stump’s Credibility

(May 5-December 29, 2014)

Arizona election law prevented candidates Forese, Little, and their campaign manager Heywood from directly coordinating with APS, the Free Enterprise Club, and the Koch network. But it appears that Stump may have been doing it for them – communicating with the dark money electoral funders, APS, the candidates, and, now we know, their campaign manager.

This new information about Heywood deepens suspicions that the former Chairman may well have been at the very center of a dark money electoral scheme to elect pro-APS, anti-solar Republicans. If true, Stump’s actions may be a violation of Arizona election law.

Criticism of Publishing Text Log

Our decision to publish Bob Stump’s full text log, a public record provided to us by the Commission in response to our March 11 records request, has not been without criticism (here and here). Commissioner Stump has blamed us for his failure to have the ACC staff redact purely personal contacts – which we didn’t seek, didn’t want, and have no way to identify – and for his choice to conduct public business via text messages on his cell phone. Our offer to Stump to remove the purely personal contacts stands. ACC outside counsel, David Cantelme, has not sent those personal contacts, as he committed to doing.

All that said, our invitation to C&BP readers to identify others on the list has paid off. And, the results aren’t helpful to Commissioner Stump’s credibility.

Remember that when the news first broke of Stump’s extensive texts, Stump asserted the contacts were of a nature that was either personal or universal, i.e., he texts with everyone. Stump now-famously said:

“We have been trying for months to coordinate a double-date to the Phoenix Symphony.”

This dismissal line is now considerably harder to make, thanks to sources who provided us with names matching up to a dozen additional numbers on the full logs.

Heywood’s Phone

Heywood’s cell phone number was wrongly identified in a recent post as belonging to Investment Prime, where he is President and CEO. He is also chairman of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We confirmed through multiple sources that the number is Heywood’s personal cell. Another number previously labeled as Investment Prime we now know belongs to former ACC Chair Gary Pierce – a business associate of Heywood.

Unnecessary Taxpayer Expenses

The Commission has subpoena authority to ask Verizon for the content of the text messages. Any one of the five commissioners could do so today, free of charge. Instead, Stump and the ACC have:

  • Hired a high-priced lawyer, David Cantelme, to obfuscate the right by law of public access to public records for a cost in May alone of $5,428.
  • Contracted a high-profile public relations firm, Marson Media, to represent the ACC after firing its staff spokesperson Rebecca Wilder.
  • Hired the mediation firm of Scott, Skelley and Muchmore to “supervise” the download of text messages – assuming they haven’t been tampered with – at the cost of $475 per hour.
  • Secured the Arizona Dept. of Public Safety’s forensic unit to do the cell phone exam.

Public Accountability

The revelation about Commissioner Stump’s 18 texts with Alan Heywood during same period of a flurry of text activity with Scot Mussi, Tom Forese, Doug Little, Sean Noble and Barbara Lockwood raises obvious questions about Commissioner Stump’s actions that must be answered. Members of the public should demand answers from the four other Corporation Commissioners as to whether they are concerned about Commissioner Stump’s conduct, and if so, what they plan to do about it. All of them have subpoena power to get to the bottom of these questions if they desire to discover the truth.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

 

Can Chairman Stump Have it Both Ways? Only the Records Will Tell

Can Chairman Stump Have it Both Ways? Only the Records Will TellIn several news stories, The Arizona Daily Star on May 21, The Arizona Republic on May 22, Greentech Media on May 26, and Utility Drive on May 27, former Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), Bob Stump, complained that excerpts from text message logs his agency provided were “cherry picked” to suggest he was at the heart of a dark money electoral scheme in 2014 to elect pro-utility members to the Commission. Stump asserted that the facts would show he was an equal opportunity texter.

“I would note that Checks and Balances… is cherry-picking text logs to paint an absurdly distorted picture.” – Stump to Arizona Daily Star.

“Stump told The Arizona Republic that the communications were not about the election, and said the group had cherry-picked a few text messages to distort the story.” – Stump to Arizona Republic.

In response to the Chairman’s concerns, we have published the full text log and names identified to date here.

Far from clearing Commissioner Stump, the full logs show a more damning fact set, particularly an overlap of texting with dark money electoral group head Scot Mussi, APS lobbyist Barbara Lockwood, Koch Industries operative Sean Noble, and then-candidate (now Commissioner) Tom Forese, and more.

Look Over Here!

The best we can tell, that’s why Commissioner Stump is now attempting to switch the subject with a victim play by railing about the opposite of “cherry picking,” the publishing of the full text logs.

According to Chairman Stump in today’s Arizona Republic story by Ryan Randazzo, the act of publishing the public records what we were given by the Commission is an invasion of his privacy and an “out of bounds” attack on his family members.

Inconvenient Facts

Before Mr. Stump invests more in playing the victim, it’s important to consider some inconvenient facts:

  • The request did nothing to the ACC’s ability – and its responsibility – to sift out Mr. Stump’s private messages from public business he chose to transact on his taxpayer-funded cell phone.
  • We have no interest in Mr. Stump’s personal life. We are out to enforce public access to public records.
  • We also have no ability – or responsibility – to know the roster of Mr. Stump’s friends and family to screen the list. That responsibility rested on the ACC, and it chose not to do so. We asked for public records that we said we’d publish, and we published them.
  • Nonetheless, we instructed our attorney, Dan Barr, to ask the ACC’s outside attorney, David Cantelme, to give us the names of any family members of friends with whom Mr. Stump had strictly personal business. Mr. Barr did so in a conversation with Mr. Cantelme, who said he would ask Mr. Stump. As of this writing, we are still awaiting a response. However, the offer stands to give us those names and numbers so we can review, evaluate and act on them.
  • The evaluating step is important because Mr. Stump has strained credulity by claiming that he needed over 70 text messages with dark money electoral group director, Scot Mussi, to arrange a trip to the symphony.
  • Mr. Stump might be asserting that the Checks and Balances Project is “left wing,” but the Commissioner can take comfort in knowing that a growing roster of Democratic officials (here, here and here) also dislike the inconvenient questions asked of them.

Free the Text Messages Content!

Probably the most important fact is that all of this back-and-forth is unnecessary, including the Commission’s hiring of an outside, taxpayer-funded attorney, David Cantelme; and an outside PR firm (we are investigating the hiring of these outside firms and their costs to Arizonans).

This is a straightforward matter with a straightforward resolution. The Commission already has the subpoena power to ask Verizon to provide the text messages that we are told don’t exist. In fact, in all likelihood, they do. With literally a phone call and the strike of a “send” button, the ACC could have the list of text messages and provide them to us.

Finally, I would like to thank all the citizens who are stepping forward to help us identify the unknown parties with whom Commissioner Stump had been exchanging text messages. More about that soon.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.