Attorney General: Corporation Commission chair broke conflict of interest laws, must be removed from office

PHOENIX — Susan Bitter Smith, the chairwoman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, broke the state’s conflict of interest laws by working as a lobbyist for companies the commission regulates, an Attorney General’s investigation has found.

The state’s top law enforcement office today filed a special action with the Arizona Supreme Court to have Bitter Smith removed from office.

Lobbying records only disclose recipient for $1 out of every $8 spent

PHOENIX — Less than 14 percent of the roughly $333,000 spent to lobby Arizona lawmakers in the first half of 2015 identified who the money was spent on, continuing a trend of scant disclosure going back years.

Since 2010, the portion of lobbying records that include beneficiaries has averaged about 12.5 percent. This is according to data maintained by the Secretary of State’s office and includes lobbying records for the first half of each year, which typically includes Arizona’s annual legislative session.

For 2015, lobbying records include a beneficiary for $1 out of every $8 spent, an analysis of the Secretary of State’s lobbying database by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting shows.

Arizona: 22nd in nation for government transparency, accountability

Arizona ranked a little above average in a new State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of government accountability and transparency in all 50 states by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. Arizona received an overall score of 64 – a D grade – and ranked 22nd among all the states.

Three years ago, Arizona’s State Integrity score was 68 for a D+, but it ranked 30th among the states. The two scores are not directly comparable, however, due to changes made to improve and update the project and methodology, such as eliminating a category for redistricting, a process that generally occurs only once every 10 years.

AZCIR awarded renewed funding from Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation

The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit investigative newsroom that focuses on statewide accountability reporting, has received a second round of funding from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. The $100,000 grant will help AZCIR continue its data analysis service for partner newsrooms while growing the Center’s capacity to produce multimedia-rich content across media platforms.

Clean Elections looking into Corp Comm texts

Arizona election regulators have taken note of records showing that Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump was in regular contact with the campaigns of candidates he supported and a “dark money” group that helped get them elected, and they want to see and inspect those records themselves.

The Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission has asked for copies of text message logs and communications in order to determine whether a further investigation is warranted.

Phone logs connect Corporation Commissioner to campaigns, ‘dark money’ and utility

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump repeatedly communicated with the executive director of a “dark money” group that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect the candidates he backed, while also keeping regular contact with those candidates, their campaign manager, and a senior executive of the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, according to recently released records.

The links to Stump, who was the Commission chairman at the time, come three months after a whistleblower complaint made by a Commission staff member alleged that Stump and former commissioner Gary Pierce facilitated electioneering from inside the commission.

Pinnacle West board to shareholders: Reject increased disclosure proposal

When Pinnacle West Capital Corporation shareholders open their mail this spring, they’ll be asked whether the state’s largest utility should provide more information about money it spends to influence policies and elections in Arizona.

While the Pinnacle West board of directors has unanimously panned the proposal, tens of thousands of shareholders have the chance to vote on it, even though it would only be symbolic. The votes will be tallied at the organization’s May 20 shareholder meeting.

AZCIR awarded tax-exempt status from IRS

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent, investigative newsroom launched in 2012, has been awarded 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. The Center, known as AZCIR, is a statewide, accountability reporting...

Bizarre voting trends emerge again in Colorado City

PHOENIX – Hundreds of voters in Colorado City made nearly identical choices when casting ballots in the November 2014 election, continuing a bizarre trend where a block of voters didn’t choose any candidate in some races, but voted almost 100 percent for an individual candidate in others.

Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan, the Republican slate for Corporation Commission and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar each earned 97 percent of the vote in Colorado City. Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, also Republicans, each earned 95 percent of the vote.

When it came to picking a state senator or retaining Arizona Supreme Court justices, Colorado City voters – by the hundreds – didn’t cast a vote. And in the races for attorney general and the Arizona House, about 200 people who otherwise voted Republican up and down the ticket cast ballots for particular Democrats.

Past due: Lobbyists who missed the annual report deadline

Every year, organizations registered with the state as lobbying entities are required to file an annual lobbying activity report. Here’s a list of all the organizations that are registered as lobbying entities with the Secretary of State’s website, but which have not filed their report or asked for an exemption to the reporting requirements.

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