Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What REALLY happened at the APS shareholders meeting and the protest outside? UPDATED 6:30 pm MST 5-23-15

Link to Don Brandt's remarks to shareholders is included in the UPDATE at the end of the post, below.

On Wednesday morning, a lively but peaceful group of protesters called attention to the Dark Money escapades conducted over the last couple of years by Arizona Public Service, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation in downtown Phoenix. Among the protesters, Renz Jennings (former chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission) made (and handed out) the following statement.
My protest is not about name calling, or greed or even APS' attempts to knee cap the future of solar energy. It is about the theft of democracy, including and especially, APS secretly underwriting campaigns of the regulators who set their rates.
That most of the Dark Money in the recent elections could have come from some other source is fiction. No, this is the parable of the Emperor's New Clothes. APS has made a naked effort to secretly buy elections using the monies it collects from its ratepayers.
It is the duty of the Pinnacle West board to determine if the management they direct should continue to siphon off millions of dollars from the revenues generated by APS customers to overwhelm the election's process.
In setting rates, it is the Constitutional duty of the five elected Commissioners to ascertain how APS spends money. To date they have made no effort to order disclosure on the money that APS spent, dark or otherwise, on financing candidates. It's easy to understand their reluctance when what would be disclosed is that APS significantly funded each and every one of their elections. 
If the Board thinks this assault on democracy is fine, then it is up to the shareholders to determine if this reflects their values as investors and either fix it or disinvest.
APS has been a well-run company, in part because of its dedicated employees. I call on them to pressure their management to get out of the business of buying elections and squandering APS' community capital.
I ask my Republican friends if they think letting APS screen and select and finance their candidates for public office will be healthy for their party.
As citizens, voters and customers, we ask you to consider whether your investment damages our democracy and undermines our responsibilities for self-government.
If it takes shaming APS leadership, board members or shareholders into stopping this tawdry assault on our democracy, we are ready to do that.
This is not over, and we are not done.

State Rep. Ken Clark (D-LD24/Central Phoenix) addresses protesters.

Apparently, NO, APS ain't got transparency.


While that was happening outside of the Heard Museum, local community activist and PinWest shareholder Jarrett Maupin and As You Sow energy program manager Amelia Timbers were inside the meeting.

Timbers gained entry to the meeting by presenting legal documentation that she represented certain shareholders throughout the process of developing and submitting the shareholder proposal to require disclosure of political spending. But when she attempted to ask a question, she was denied that courtesy (right) based on a claim that her documentation failed to demonstrate she had the right to ask questions.

Nevertheless, the shareholder proposal was voted on. But the earliest the final vote tally will be disclosed will be next week. Reportedly, PinWest did say that the proposal did not garner a majority of the votes. However, that's not necessarily a big deal at this point.

The essence of the company line as presented during the meeting was captured in a lengthy statement read by APS president Don Brandt. Because no recording devices were allowed in the meeting, and because the statement was not made available in writing, one can fully expect that it was extremely slanted in favor of the PinWest company line.

Really, a closed meeting with no journalistic coverage and no recording devices sets it up as a propaganda fest bordering on demagoguery. Notably, Brandt played the victim card, portraying the local media controversy as exclusively theatrics. [Kudos to 12News correspondent Brahm Resnik for much more fair coverage than Randazzo has (probably ever) provided] Of course, as previous statements have indicated, Brandt claims he only acted lawfully. Those poor defenseless... ALEC members.

Given the heavy-handedness of all the actions by APS and Pinnacle West, I now have to wonder what safeguards are in place to ensure the integrity of the vote.

If Arizona Republic energy public relations writer Ryan Randazzo wants to make even the slightest pretense of being a legitimate journalist, he will dig and report on what procedures and mechanisms are in place to provide any assurance that the vote will be counted accurately and reported fairly. Oh, sure. APS will provide him with ITS story. Randazzo will then take it and transcribe it into the Republic and claim he's fulfilled a journalistic responsibility. That's just what shills do, isn't it?

Several quotations websites attribute to the late Russian dictator Josef Stalin the following,
“People who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
Only one source I found provided back up documentation, saying a variant was found in
Boris Bazhanov's Memoirs of Stalin's Former Secretary, published in 1992 and only available, so far as I know, in Russian. The pertinent passage, which appears near the end of chapter five, reads as follows (loosely translated with the help of Google):
"You know, comrades," says Stalin, "that I think in regard to this: I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes, and how." 
Given what former ACC chairman Jennings had to say (above), this is especially poignant.

By the way, the Arizona Republic's Ryan Randazzo reported about the protest,
Outside the meeting, armed security and Phoenix police kept the small crowd of mostly retirees, politicians and political activists confined to the sidewalks along Central Avenue.
Take a look at this and then tell me if Randazzo fairly characterized the police presence.

UPDATE           UPDATE           UPDATE
PinWest chairman Don Brandt's remarks to the shareholders is now available for review. It's chock full of propaganda.


  1. The history of the ACC, actually all such commissions to oversee the utilities is rigged ! ! I read this book, and discovered that Samuel Insull set up the monopoly utility structure so that wall street could maintain control of the utilities with the illusion of citizen participation, with corporate commissions. We citizens are screwed. Read this book and then see if you can find an angle with which to change this structure. I cannot. The utilities must be nationalized. The profit motive must be removed. Both APS and SRP must be nationalized. That is our only hope, in my humble opinion.

  2. Arizona EagletarianMay 21, 2015 at 3:58 PM

    Thanks for your feedback. Indeed, the current ACC is completely captured, primarily by APS. However, I disagree with you on nationalization of utilities and on the genesis of the ACC.

    The Arizona Constitution was written with a markedly populist and progressive focus, largely due to the leadership of the president of the constitutional convention, George W. P. Hunt.

    At this point, nationalizing probably would not be progress. Rather, to mitigate the captive nature of the utility customer, innovation on the horizon will make the electrical grid obsolete in a matter of a couple of short decades.

    In the meantime, fighting back against the corruption of the entirely captured regulatory function of the ACC is imperative. As former ACC chair Jennings said, "This is not over, we are not done."

  3. Thanks for the reply. Let me be more specific. The utilities, SRP, APS need to be changed to a public utility like the TVA or set up into smaller public utilities modeled after the state of Nebraska. The ACC was written into the AZ Constitution, with elected officials, unlike most states east of AZ, where the commission members are appointed. I know that. But in reading the history of the utilities, the for-profit businessmen, like Insull, had planned for such an event and what we are seeing today is the ability of the utility to pack the ACC with their people. And there is nothing that anyone can do. Nothing ! Public protesting is being done in vain.
    I installed solar panels 5 years ago. It took SRP that long to figure it out and now they slap new solar installs with a $50/month penalty. They finally see the writing on the wall. But APS/SRP have the power to create laws to bill you even if you are NOT connected to the grid. The city of Mesa does that with garbage/water bills. Everyone in their area is charged a monthly fee whether you use garbage pickup/water or not. I HOPE I am wrong.

  4. Arizona EagletarianMay 21, 2015 at 8:49 PM

    SRP already IS a public utility like TVA. Yet, they also, as you observed, despite their elected board of directors, are members of ALEC and are non-responsive to the stakeholders in their monopoly territory.

    At this time, I'm convinced that grid obsolescence is the only cure.

    As far as protesting is concerned, taking a stand publicly is not necessarily in vain, even if the immediate results are not tangibly evident.

  5. A good conversation here. SRP is not set up like TVA because the board members are elected by vote of land ownership. What? TVA does not do that.

  6. Arizona EagletarianMay 23, 2015 at 6:33 PM

    Of course, you are correct, TVA and SRP are not identical. However, they are both public power utilities rather than IOUs.