Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, January 4, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new at the Corp Comm?

Susan Bitter Smith announced on December 17, that today, January 4, 2016 she would officially step down.

Last week, Arizona's governor, who I affectionately refer to as Scrooge McDucey, named former AZ House Speaker Andy Toxin* as Bitter Smith's replacement. The Yellow Sheet Report said this on Wednesday, December 30,
Tobin has already solidified his reputation as Ducey’s go-to guy for running agencies. Now he can add one more title to his fast-growing list of government positions: energy regulator. The governor this afternoon appointed Tobin as the Corp Comm’s newest member, ending days of speculation about who will replace Commissioner Bitter Smith, whose resignation becomes effective on Jan. 4th... “There’s a reason I’ve trusted Andy with so many important roles in my own administration. He’s a person of outstanding integrity,” Ducey said in a news release. “Andy is his own man, known for sticking to his guns and doing what he knows is right, even when the stakes are high and even under intense outside pressure. Now, more than ever, that strength of character is needed on this commission.”
There are so many things wrong with that blurb. Of course, the main point of it, that McDucey did appoint Toxin, is correct. But that they report McDucey's bullshit** as fact still leaves me with a sense of cognitive dissonance.

As to Toxin's integrity, let me refer you to May 20, 2014. CBS 5's Morgan Loew, at the 2:35 mark in this video, reports on Toxin:

Despite Toxin's verbal assurance that he would meet with Loew that week, all the Speaker's office did was send a written statement saying he supports increased gift transparency.

Of course, the former speaker knows full well that the GOP is able to maintain its iron grip on Arizona public policy, especially in the legislature, by way of information overload. There's simply too damn much information for anyone to keep anything straight during a legislative session. That goes for the number of bills processed and goes even more so for the details on lobbyist influence at the Capitol.

Hell, even rank and file lawmakers have an extremely difficult time knowing what's going on with any bills other than the one's each files themselves. Because of the complexity of utility issues and rate cases, the same is true at the Corp Comm.

When McDucey announced the successor to Bitter Smith, I told people I see Toxin as the governor's "fixer." The extent to which Toxin does things improperly cannot be easily discerned, but the fact that he is bought and paid for by the shadow government (lobbyist influence) is undeniable.

Tom Ryan, the Chandler lawyer and activist who filed the complaint that got the ball rolling for this changing of the guard, characterizes Tobin as,
Ducey’s political Spackle compound! Got a vacancy, Tobin is your guy! Want to shut down a pesky consumer protection agency like Weights & Measures? Better call Andy! Want an absolutely bland personality who will lay down for Don Brandt? You got it, Tobin! His motto is “when you need a politician really bad, I am a really bad politician for you!” 
Of course, pundits and players in Arizona (especially Barrett Marson) have keyed in on the fact that the change in personnel on the Corp Comm might not be good for the solar industry. On the other hand, I've taken issue with that position, saying that when corruption exists, it must be rooted out.

The fact that Arizona's most abundant natural resource is SUNLIGHT is also undeniable. Technology continues to advance. Neither Andy Toxin, Barrett Marson, Trash Burner Bob Stump nor Arizona Public Service president Don Brandt can stop it.

APS-owned commissioners Little and Forese recently took jaunts to California to meet with Solar City CEO Lyndon Rive ostensibly to seek compromise on solar industry issues. This suggests Brandt gave the commission permission to find a way out of the turmoil that the Dark Money/rooftop solar/net metering and Bitter Smith controversies have raised. That might be a good thing.

Of course, Andy Toxin isn't all bad. He has extensive administrative experience and might be a shoe-in to become the next chair of the commission.

We will have to wait and watch. Key word being "watch," closely.


In the meantime, for today's big news and events (changing of the guard at the commission), if you are so inclined to explore Brnovich's response to Bitter Smith's Supreme Court filing (from the day before she announced her resignation), you may find the 26-page document here. In essence, he says that if she follows through (today), then he believes his petition is moot and essentially withdraws it. But if the court goes ahead and decides to consider the issues she raised, Brnovich concludes,
For the foregoing reasons, Petitioner conditionally moves to withdraw its Petition. Alternatively, if the Court exercises its discretion to accept review and decide the legal issue raised in the Petition, then it should conclude that Ms. Bitter Smith has three categories of conflicts under § 40-101, each of which by itself makes her ineligible to serve as a Commissioner. Those conflicts are her “official relation[s]” as an authorized lobbyist for two affiliates of Cox; her “official relation[s]” through SWCCA to Cox, Comcast, Suddenlink, and Time Warner; and her “pecuniar[y] interest[s]” in those companies because of her over $150,000 annual salary as the Executive Director and designated lobbyist for SWCCA.

* Note: a user with the wiki handle "Calibrador," on December 30, prematurely updated Toxin's wikipedia page to state that he is "is a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission, appointed by Governor Doug Ducey following the resignation of Susan Bitter Smith."

I don't know what time Toxin will take the oath of office, but unless I'm mistaken, until Bitter Smith officially vacates, that could raise other legal issues. If he did so before today, Toxin would be a sixth commissioner on a panel that only is authorized five members. I know, I'm being picky. But really...

** Note 2: In Harry G Frankfurt's 2005 essay, On Bullshit, he says,
Through excessive indulgence in [bullshitting] which involves making assertions without paying attention to anything except what it suits one to say, a person's normal habit of attending to the way things are may become attenuated or lost. 
Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. 
The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. 
He does not reject the authority of the truth as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all.
By virtue of this, bullshit is the greater enemy of the truth than lies are.  

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