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.

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.