PHOENIX — The state’s largest electric utility may have outmaneuvered a utility regulator in the fight over its campaign-spending records.
Arizona Public Service and Pinnacle West Capital Corp., its parent, have quietly dropped their lawsuit seeking to quash the subpoena issued by Commissioner Bob Burns for corporate records relating to the 2014 election. APS spokesman John McDonald would not comment on the move.
In response, Burns filed his own legal action late Friday to compel the companies to comply with the subpoena he claims they’ve ignored.
But Burns could find himself without legal help to pursue the case.
That’s because the other members of the Arizona Corporation Commission previously voted to allow Burns to hire outside counsel — but only to defend himself against the lawsuit filed against him by APS and Pinnacle West.
Burns said the utility’s decision not to seek a court order declaring his subpoena invalid does not mean the company will finally produce the documents he wants. “They are going to try and stop me by some other means in all probability,” he said. “I don’t know what their game plan is.”
But in dropping the lawsuit, APS’ “game plan” could be to leave Burns without the funds he needs to pursue the issue.
Commission Chairman Tom Forese said late Friday he could not comment on the latest turn of events.
There are indications that the others on the five-member commission are unlikely to give Burns permission to use commission funds to proactively pursue the records.
Burns said he’s not sure whether he was outmaneuvered by the utility.
“We’ll see,” he said. “If the commission is not going to support me doing my official duties, I think that’s a problem.”
The dispute involves questions about what behind-the-scenes role Pinnacle West and APS played in the 2014 election.
It’s a matter of public record that the Free Enterprise Club and Save Our State Now put $3.2 million into getting Forese and fellow Republican Doug Little elected to the commission. What is not known is the source of those funds as the two organizations claim they are “social welfare” organizations exempt from Arizona laws compelling disclosure of donors.
APS has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny its role in the 2014 race.
Unable to get any records from the Free Enterprise Club and Save Our State Now, Burns subpoenaed the records of APS and Pinnacle West, demanding disclosure of their spending on campaigns, lobbyists and charitable donations.
APS, as a regulated utility, did supply some information, but not as much as Burns wants.