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.

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.

Text Message Log Provides New Insights Into Stump Contacts

Text Message Log Provides New Insights Into Stump ContactsToday, we publish the entire, 240-page log of Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump’s text messages in a searchable format. We are also looking for the public’s help in identifying senders or receivers of text messages who we could not identify.

Further analysis of the text message logs of Arizona Corporation Commission’s Bob Stump provides new insights into the pattern of contacts by the former chairman.  Click here to access and updated list of all the names we’ve tentatively identified to date and their number of texts.  Click here to find the entire searchable log.

We converted the text message log, provided by the Commission in response to our March 11 records request, into an Excel Spreadsheet. We then searched open source records including Google, LexisNexis, and Spokeo to determine the owners of phone numbers with whom Stump exchanged text messages.

New analysis has yielded some striking insights that we list below.

We could not identify many numbers. If you recognize any we have not identified, please send us your findings to: capturedregulator@checksandbalancesproject.org. We protect the identity of sources.

Last August’s Primary Election

Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

In the months leading up to Arizona’s primary election on August 26, 2014, in which two sets of Republican candidates were pitted against each other – one pro-rooftop solar, the other pro-utility – our initial investigation showed indications that Stump was in extensive contact with many players in the dark money election scheme that helped elect the pro-Arizona Public Service candidates.

The pattern of those text messages suggest Stump not only knew, but also raises the question of whether he could have been coordinating the election of winning GOP candidates (now commissioners) Doug Little and Tom Foresee with APS’ Barbara Lockwood, and Scot Mussi, the head of the dark money electoral group, Arizona Free Enterprise Club. Arizona Public Service (APS) is widely believed to have funded much of the dark money election scheme.

Enter Sean Noble

Stump contacted Koch Industries operative Sean Noble in a concentrated period weeks before the Republican candidate selection

A new examination of the text logs shows that then-Chairman Stump first reached out to Sean Noble, executive director and president of American Encore, a 501(c) 4 nonprofit reported to be a conduit for the Koch Brothers donor network, on July 17. They corresponded regularly through 18 texts in the next eight days then stopped. This period was five weeks before Arizona’s primary to select Republican candidates for the Commission. At no other time from May 1, 2014, through March 11, 2015, did Stump and Noble text each other, according to the log.

Full Text Message Log Provides New Insights Into Stump Contacts

Noble, Mussi messages overlap; more extensive texting with dark money electoral group

The text messages with Noble overlap the time period during which Chairman Stump was texting with Scot Mussi, president and sole board member, of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. Checks and Balances Project had previously reported that Mussi and Stump exchanged 46 texts. Our recount shows the prior number was conservative. The actual number is higher: 73.

Full Text Message Log Provides New Insights Into Stump Contacts

Messages with APS’s Lockwood relegated to primary election season

Four days before Stump first texted Sean Noble, he reached out to APS’s  general manager of regulatory affairs and compliance Barbara Lockwood on July 13, 2014. Over the next 15 days, until July 31, the Chairman and Lockwood would swap 44 texts, then stop for nearly two months.

Text Message Log Provides New Insights Into Stump Contacts

Something seems to have happened during the final two weeks of July. Stump was texting Noble, whom he stopped on July 24; Mussi, whose last text was on July 26; and candidate, now Commissioner Tom Forese, with whom he stopped texting on July 26.

 

Text Message Log Provides New Insights Into Stump Contacts

Lon Huber Texts

1,806 texts exchanged with Lon Huber, consultant to AZ Residential Utility Consumer Office (RUCO).  

The mission of RUCO  is to serve Arizona’s Residential Utility. Essentially, it is supposed to be the advocate for Arizona consumers, who, it should be noted, overwhelmingly want access to low-cost rooftop solar. One of the most  frequent text contacts for Stump on his taxpayer-reimbursed phone was a key RUCO consultant, Lon Huber. The logs show that Stump and Huber exchanged 1,806 text messages – an average of over five a day over the 11 month period the records cover. Huber debated solar industry attorney Court Rich at Solar Summit 2014, arguing for the benefits of government-supported monopoly untilities competing in the low-cost rooftop solar market against private enterprise.

Conclusion

The full text logs and the analysis provided here provide a thicker cast of Stump’s text contacts. They also show an even less flattering set of facts than the contacts reported to date for an elected body supposed to be neutrally overseeing large parts of the Arizona economy on behalf of its citizens.

When Stump’s text messages are finally released and if suspicions of electioneering turn out to be correct, it’s not just Bob Stump who could potentially be at fault. It’s also commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little – perhaps others on the Commission and staff, as well.

This is very likely why this same set of players at the ACC now asserts that it should control the discovery and release of the text messages that it very clearly doesn’t want the public to see. The fact remains that the Commission already has the subpoena power to order Verizon to release the text message content immediately. The messages are, literally, a phone call away.

The Arizona Corporation Commission’s gamesmanship from last week continues to suggest a deep-seated fear of public access to public records.

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.

 

Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Susan Bitter Smith Could Provide Bob Stump’s Text Message Content – If She Wants To

Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Susan Bitter Smith Could Provide Bob Stump’s Text Message Content – If She Wants To

Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Susan Bitter Smith

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has firmly stated that the content of Commissioner Bob Stump’s text messages are no longer available. In fact, there are ways the commission can obtain text message content, detailed below.

These are public records because they are related to Stump’s job as Corporation Commissioner, a fact that is further confirmed by Stump submitting his personal Verizon account invoices for payment by Arizona taxpayers. The ACC is resisting calls to provide these records. Why? Text logs suggest that former chairman Bob Stump may have been carrying out public business through text messages on his personal phone and does not want the public to see what he was communicating.

Issue a Subpoena

The Arizona constitution empowers the ACC to “act in a Judicial capacity sitting as a tribunal.” Chairman Susan Bitter Smith, like all of the members of the Arizona Corporation Commission, has subpoena power. If she really wanted to know if former Chairman Stump was engaged in illegal electioneering prior to the August 26, 2015, GOP primary election, she could subpoena the text message content from Verizon and read what Stump was texting.

To learn if Verizon provides text message content, I called customer service at (800) 922-0204 on two separate occasions, most recently on May 29, 2015, and asked to speak to a manager or senior customer service representative.   Here’s the essence of the conversations:

Q:  If Verizon is presented with a subpoena, will it provide text message content?

A:  Yes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a criminal or civil case, if Verizon is presented with a subpoena, we will provide text message content.

I was also given the phone number of the Verizon legal department.

Scrape His Phones 

Cellebrite

CNN/Money

Another way for Chairman Bitter Smith to have the truth come out or restore Commissioner Stump’s credibility would be to immediately create a copy of the content of his phone with Oxygen Forensic Suite 2015 7.3, Cellbrite UFED Pro Series, or other products used by investigators worldwide, and release a copy of the results.

Unless Commissioner Stump has destroyed his phone, removed the SIM (data) card, purposefully deleted texts, or updated the operating system software, the text message content and Gmails that we have requested under the Arizona records act still reside on his phone.

We are not interested in text message content or Gmails between Stump and his family and friends. However, as we have detailed previously, information extracted from Stump’s text message logs raise questions about what he was doing in the months leading up to the primary election:

Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Susan Bitter Smith Could Provide Bob Stump’s Text Message Content – If She Wants To

Preserve Stump’s Phone

On June 2, our attorney sent a letter to the ACC’s outside counsel, David Cantelme, asking that Commissioner Stump:

  • Not delete any texts, photos, messages or any data in general.
  • Not remove the battery, sim or data cards.
  • Not update the software on the phone. This includes the operating system or applications.
  • Keep the phone in a dry area away from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • To the extent possible, discontinue use of the cell phone, by placing it in airplane mode or in a Faraday bag.

That should not be a problem. After all, the ACC has issued the commissioner another, official T-Mobile phone – which he rarely uses.

Now Chairman Bitter Smith, up to you.

 

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.

Citizens Clean Elections Commission Requests Text Message Data for Investigation of Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump

Citizens Clean Elections Commission Requests Text Message Data for Investigation of Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump Checks and Balances Project has received a request from Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission for text message records that indicate that Commissioner Bob Stump of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) may have assisted with dark money funding for two winning, pro-utility candidates in last August’s primary election.

Our original research that uncovered who Stump had been texting with in the weeks leading up to the primary election was derived from records provided by the ACC in response to our records request.

Electioneering of the type possibly indicated by Stump’s text logs may be illegal under Arizona law and could call into question Forese and Little’s elections. We have sent our data to the Elections Commission.

As detailed in our most recent post, Stump exchanged hundreds of texts with Scot Mussi of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, Arizona Public Service executive Barbara Lockwood, and, among others, candidates Tom Forese and Doug Little, who won the primary and general elections against candidates that supported low-cost, consumer solar.

 

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.