Of course, I wondered about it while I sat outside the meeting hall and texted key individuals to let them know I was removed from the room before I could even start to take notes (and I didn't even mouth my favorite word while making eye contact with her). Corporation Commission chairwoman Susan Bitter Smith apparently demanded that NO MEDIA be allowed to hear what she had to say.
Outrageous, you say? Well, hell yeah!
Even though panel moderators later in the day would include Brahm Resnik from 12News, Jim Small from the Arizona Capitol Times and Herman Trabish, who writes for Utility Dive, (each of whom arrived after Bitter Smith was done) nobody else who writes for publication to my knowledge was present during the keynote.
One attendee, a person who does NOT work for or is in any way (other than attending the conference, having paid the fee to attend) connected to AriSeia or APS reported the following to me about Bitter Smith's remarks.
I did not know that you were ushered out Steve. Sorry to hear that. That is highly inappropriate in my opinion as it is repression of a free and independent press.
To encapsulate, Mrs. Bitter Smith complained at length about Checks & Balances being an "out of state, dark money group" who she felt was misrepresenting AriSEIA and other pro-solar folks at today's event.
She spoke of someone online who said she was imminently under the threat of arrest. She mocked this person while speaking of it.
She also spoke angrily about Checks & Balances accusing a fellow commissioner of being incapable of writing his own opinions, an obvious reference to Doug Little's recent release of documents.
She tried to encourage all present to turn against Checks & Balances and reject what she represented as harassment. She also said Checks & Balances was harassing regulators across the country.
No mention of ALEC, 60 Plus, Americans for Prosperity & all the others who have worked on behalf of pro utility commissioners including Bitter Smith. During the Q&A these groups did come up.
My overall impression was her talk was the manifestation of an embattled chairwoman who went on the offensive at the wrong venue.According to that attendee, Bitter Smith claimed in her talk that because she is a judge (or functions in the capacity of a judge, in her role as a Corporation Commissioner), she's not allowed to speak in situations like that with journalists present. Further, she warned her audience against speaking to the press about the content of her remarks this morning.
Given her power to retaliate against specific interests or companies represented at the conference, it comes as no surprise that nobody really wanted to talk with me much today at the event.
That claim on her part, of course, is complete and total bullshit. It also reeks of intimidation and at least borders on improper exercise of authority by an elected official. That she demanded exclusion of anyone who would possibly publish her remarks, is (in my humble opinion) very ugly.
Later in the day, I asked one of the conference organizers if Bitter Smith's speech was recorded. He told me that it was not.
There certainly seems to be a HUGE amount of irony involved when an elected Corporation Commissioner complains about checks and balances. Does she even realize why the concept was written into the Constitutions of the United States and of Arizona?
Doesn't the mere fact that she complains about it tell you something is amiss?
Well maybe in another post tomorrow I'll hit the positive highlights of conference. There were some.