Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, December 18, 2015

Today's big ARIZONA political news story -- Corp Comm vacancy speculation

No, I'm not going to expound in this space about the brouhaha over the security breach in information systems provided by not-at-all impartial third party data vendor NGP VAN -- for Democratic campaigns (including Sanders and Clinton) -- in the news today. Enough said about that.

However, speculation has already ramped up dramatically on the question of who Ducey will appoint to fill the impending Corporation Commission vacancy.

Yesterday, Tom Ryan made a clear statement of his preference,
"I’m calling upon Gov. Ducey to appoint a former retired judge from either the Supreme or appellate court, who has no connection to any of industries regulated at the ACC, and who will agree not to run for re-election in 2016," Ryan said. "We need to reestablish trust in the ACC and re-establish integrity at the ACC, and appointing a partisan to fill this position will undermine that process."
Understandably, many of my friends have expressed little hope that Ducey will take that course of action.

To them, and to you, I point out however, that last Spring, when the legislature passed SB1445, which would have prohibited disclosure of the identity of police officers who use deadly force on the job, the public was outraged.

As a result, Ducey vetoed SB1445.

Susan Bitter Smith's resignation is the result of the people of Arizona speaking out in disgust with her obvious conflict of interest. She brazenly ran for a seat on the Corporation Commission in direct violation of ARS § 40-101. Further, during the three years she served on the ACC, she failed to recuse herself on several votes, which now presents prima facie evidence of that conflict.

The Arizona Republic defended Bitter Smith repeatedly but still had to provide some coverage of the controversy. The bottom line is that the people are and have been outraged.

Conservative Republic columnist Bob Robb today called on the governor to appoint a "technocrat" to serve a caretaker role, rather than give a partisan, such as Cap'n Al Melvin, the opportunity to get a head start on the 2016 election.
When state Republican Party chief Robert Graham reportedly urged Corporation Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith to resign, one of the reasons was so Gov. Doug Ducey could appoint a Republican successor and give the appointee a leg up in running for the seat in 2016.
Now that Bitter Smith has resigned, I hope Ducey spoils Graham’s political calculation by appointing a qualified technocrat who will be a caretaker and not run for the seat.
When an elected official resigns, the appointment of a caretaker, someone who won’t run for the office, is generally the best practice. Other politicians, whoever has the appointment power, shouldn’t use the occasion to tilt the electoral playing field for a favored candidate. Candidates shouldn’t obtain the power of incumbency through cronyism. They should have to earn it at the ballot box.
This is particularly a best practice when it comes to the Corporation Commission, and at this point in troubled time for the commission. The commission is drowning in politics. The last thing this commission needs is another politician on the make.
Robb's right on the money on this point.

The Yellow Sheet today includes several related points worthy of consideration.
Among the names that have been bandied about by the chattering class are Ted Vogt, Ducey’s former chief of operations; Andy Tobin; Al Melvin, who is already running for the Corp Comm; and Frank Riggs, the former California congressman turned 2014 gubernatorial candidate... Daily Star columnist Tim Steller offered four other names from Southern Arizona: Lea Marquez Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; former lawmaker Jonathan Paton; Juan Ciscomani, Ducey’s Southern Arizona director; and former Pima County supervisor Mike Boyd. [...]
Melvin said he thinks he’s the best person for the job opening at the Corp Comm. He said he would like the appointment from Ducey, but hasn’t been contacted by anyone yet. “I have to admit, I would like to be [appointed]. After all, I’ve been campaigning to get on the commission for the past five months. There now is an opening. I would welcome an appointment to fill out her last year,” he said. [...]
Meanwhile, solar industry attorney Court Rich said Bitter Smith’s resignation means APS will “no doubt be angling to hand-pick” Ducey’s appointee. It’s critical that Ducey try to find an “independent actor to fill this seat while tuning out the multitude of utility lobbyists that will be passing him the names of their buddies,” he said. Solar industry spokesman Jason Rose echoed the same sentiment. “The hope is that we get a fair and impartial appointment, and not an APS stooge,” he said. 
Of course, everybody and her brother already realizes that APS will be angling to hand-pick Susan's successor. One friend even went so far as to (tongue-in-cheek, of course) predict the seat would go to Donald Brandt.

Really, the bottom line is that it is up to you and me to speak up assertively and emphatically calling on the governor to take heed to advice along the lines of what Robb or Ryan have suggested.

You can do that by calling (after hours leave a voice mail message) 602-542-4331 and sending him a note on his website's contact form. It is critical that as many people as possible make their voice heard at the State Capitol.

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In a related consideration about Bitter Smith's resignation, the Capitol Times and Yellow Sheet reported today, regarding SBS's stated desire for the Supreme Court to hear and rule on the conflict of interest issues she claims to not have violated,
Brnovich said he plans to ask for a conditional motion to withdraw his motion seeking Bitter Smith’s removal from office, effectively ending the proceeding. The Supreme Court had asked the AG to file any response to Bitter Smith’s counter-argument by Dec. 23, and Brnovich said he will submit the withdrawal motion at the time. His filing will ask the court to no longer hear the case, provided that Bitter Smith follows through on her resignation, which makes his petition to the court moot, on Jan. 4. He called Bitter Smith’s declaration that she wants the court case to continue a political maneuver. “Sometimes, doing the right thing is not always the easy thing to do. I would commend her for stepping down, quite frankly, but it did seem like she didn’t want to take full responsibility for the conflict of interest,” he told our reporter this afternoon.
Brnovich noted that Bitter Smith’s lawyer wrote a lengthy response expounding on her innocence, but she resigned anyway. And yet, he added, she’s seeking the court to still weigh in, knowing the justices are unlikely to hear it now that she’s stepping down. “If she truly believed that what she was doing was right, that the law was on her side, at this point, after filing a response, then she should let the court hear it” instead of resigning, Brnovich said. He insisted that his office is on the right side of the law: “If this isn’t a conflict of interest as she claims, then I don’t know what is. If I didn’t think that this was a blatant violation of the state statutes, we would not have moved forward.”

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There is still information regarding Leach v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission I need to fill you in on. Look for that in a blog post soon. 

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