In these hot days, there is non-stop clamoring in the corporate media -- about the IRS being mean to the Tea Party, US Attorney General Eric Holder's latest misdeed, the Keystone XL Pipeline, whether Harry Reid is going to exercise the nuclear option to end GOP filibustering on Obama appointments to federal courts -- and countless other items which function as "shiny objects." Therefore, there's just no time, or space in the average citizen's head to realize or remember what could really be the most pressing issues of the day in Arizona.
One of those important issues, encapsulated in legislation that has long since passed out of our awareness, even for activists who want to do something about it, has to do with what I call the Lobbyist Shakedown Bill. Originally introduced on several pieces of legislation this session, the measure -- to dramatically relax limits on what individuals and PACs (political action committees) may contribute to candidates -- HB 2593 made it successfully through both chambers of the legislature and was signed by the governor more than six weeks ago.
One would have to have blinders on to not even begin to realize the quid pro quo ramifications of allowing people to contribute so much more to campaigns. Some Special Interests may have a hard time competing in this newly reformulated arena. But you can (very safely) bet that right at the top of the list of donors will be lobbyists for utilities in our state. Especially Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project.
A couple of days ago, the Arizona Eagletarian post -- about APS "thanking" state Rep. Catherine Miranda (along with Democratic state Sen. Robert Meza) by paying for a very professionally done mailer -- generated quite a bit of buzz at the Capitol. Not surprisingly, NOBODY has contacted me to deny the veracity of any part of that post.
The mailer was paid for by an Independent Expenditure committee run by GOP political operative Max Fose. IE committees are not even subject to the same kind of limits as a candidate's campaign committee.
About that buzz the other day at the Capitol. The Yellow Sheet, a gossip publication that operates on apparently much looser professional standards than a newsroom staffed by professional journalists, found the Arizona Eagletarian story on Miranda juicy enough to quote -- without giving proper attribution.
RETURNING THE FAVOR?
Exactly who is behind the Arizona 2014 campaign won’t be known until campaign finance reports are due in January 2014, but there is speculation in Dem circles that the money is coming from APS and is being spent on those lawmakers because they supported one of the utility’s bills this year. Liberal blogger Steve Muratore wrote this morning that his sources report that the pro-Miranda mailer “likely is thanks for her taking the lead in organizing a faction of five Hispanic members of the Arizona House Democratic caucus” who voted for H2485 (health & safety audit privilege). Muratore also reported that Meza (who also voted for the bill) and Miranda sat at the APS table at the May 18 Arizona Democratic Party Heritage Dinner fundraiser. Fose told our reporter that the benefactors of the IE spending aren’t based on votes on individual legislation, but are on “policies, records and positions in their entirety.” He said the committee will be doing more spending in the future.Of course, "Liberal blogger" is the gossipy way to get out of having to identify the fact that a publication they consider to be a competitor scooped them. For them to truthfully and professionally attribute to the Arizona Eagletarian, apparently threatens their Yellow Sheet brand.
In this case, their insecurity shows through loud and clear. After all, I can't see them ever knowingly exposing the genuine relationship dynamics wrapped up in Special Interests buying influence at the Arizona Capitol. So, why would they have a problem with providing proper attribution?
I can guess... perhaps for them, legitimizing the Arizona Eagletarian, might undermine the credibility of their publication, which apparently willfully ignores influence peddling.
By the way, the Yellow Sheet did do a little bit of original reporting on that piece. They contacted Fose to get a quote from him about the situation. Note Fose's non-denial denial. With standard (bullshit) language equivalent to another shiny object, he denied the quid pro quo angle.
In this case, he minimizes the significance of the Independent Expenditure by saying it was because of “policies, records and positions in their entirety.” Translated into English, Fose is saying that Miranda and Meza are becoming nice, reliable, compliant Republicans.
But I digress.
The connection of Arizona Public Service to the five rogue members of the House Democratic Caucus hardly even scratches the surface of Special Interest influence right now at Shakedown City, Arizona.
There are several ways -- besides campaign contributions and IEs -- lobbyists interact with state lawmakers. One that is worthy of examination (that I'd love to do one of these days) is the annual softball games. Salt River Project hosts events like that at its Pera Club.
The other way lobbyists (especially the two biggest utilities) in Arizona reel in our lawmakers is with free food. During regular sessions, weather permitting, Special Interests try their hand at catching more flies with honey than with vinegar -- by hosting mass feeding events on the Senate lawn or across the street at Wesley Bolin Plaza -- for lawmakers, legislative staff and whoever else wanders by unafraid to partake* of the culinary offerings.
All of these things add up to having a huge invisible chain (or net) around lawmakers. By then, it takes an individual lawmaker having an incredible amount of resolve, rhetorical moxie and insight into whichever particular issue is being subjected to legislative action in order to resist doing the bidding of Big Money.
So, while it disappoints me to a fair degree, I'm not surprised when I read the following press release:
Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Submit Comments to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regarding Proposed Rule for Navajo Generating Station; Letter Urges EPA to Convene Public Hearings Throughout Arizona Given Dramatic Adverse Impacts of the Proposed Rule
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX (May 28, 2013) – Today, a bipartisan majority of the Arizona House of Representatives will file the attached letter with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld. The document urges the agency to conduct broad public hearings throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area and rural areas during the EPA’s public comment period for its proposed regional haze rule for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in Page, Ariz..
21 Republicans and Sixteen Democrat Members of the Arizona House of Representatives signed the letter signaling a strong, bi-partisan opposition to the proposed rule. The sweeping nature of the EPA’s proposed rule, the legislators argue, would have significant adverse impacts on Arizona families, tribes, businesses, agricultural interests and other key industries in the state through increased energy and water rates. There also is enormous risk to Arizona’s economy as thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost economic activity will impact the state every year. Public hearings are needed throughout the entire state to ensure a transparent process that reflects broad stakeholder engagement and input on the rule.
“The Navajo Generating Station provides affordable energy and water to Arizona. It’s disconcerting that its operation might be undermined—or worse, shut down altogether,” said House Speaker Andy Tobin. “If implemented, EPA’s rule would drive up water rates, jeopardize jobs, and severely damage Arizona’s economy.”
The EPA’s proposed rule rejects the detailed Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) proposal submitted by NGS’s operator, Salt River Project, and would instead impose the installation of additional technology controls that could cost as much as $1.1 billion. Incredibly, the rule would yield no perceptible visibility improvement at the Grand Canyon, according to the government’s own study. The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) concluded “the body of research to date…is inconclusive as to whether [installing additional controls] would lead to any perceptible improvement in visibility.”
NGS provides energy to the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which makes renewable, affordable water available to 80 percent of Arizona’s residents—45 percent in Phoenix alone. If NGS shuts down, or has to install these costly controls, it would result in a potential doubling or tripling of water rates throughout the state. Likewise, 3,400 skilled jobs and an estimated $20 billion in economic activity over the next three decades could be in jeopardy if NGS is forced to shut down due to the rule.
“The EPA must convene multiple public hearings in geographically diverse areas of the state so the agency can begin to understand firsthand how its proposed rule will harm the livelihood of Arizona families, businesses, and communities,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “All of us have a stake in this debate, and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle urge EPA to expand its study of the issue and ensure Arizonans’ voices are heard.”
Nevermind that the letter is complete bullshit. First, for any signer that questioned SRP's (the NGS operator) intention, they need only say, "but all we're asking for is for extensive public testimony." If you want to know what those public hearings will look like, review video from the 2011 redistricting hearings. Recall the concept of ASTROTURF.
Others may have needed little persuasion other than to say, hey the Obama administration's EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wants to kill jobs. But those claims are easily debunked.
Because they've lured them all in with honey (which is incredibly sticky, if you'll recall), the utility interests need not deal with the pesky environmental interests that want to say, "HEY -- WAIT just a doggone minute! Don't you see what's been happening with Climate Change?"
Oh, by the way, don't forget the clever measure the legislature wants to put on next year's general election ballot to completely defund Clean Elections. Apparently, the Senate is sitting on this bill. It may be subject to Senate floor debate in the final overnight hours of the session, whenever that takes place.
The bottom line is that there is a very strong but invisible link between the behavior of Arizona's state lawmakers and Big Money. Your humble Arizona Eagletarian blog publisher will do everything possible (or, at least everything feasible) to keep you apprised of the developments.
*NOTE -- Most of the time they can't really turn people away, but some might be too timid to just pick up a plate and serve themselves in what are usually buffet style offerings.