PHOENIX — Supporters of the renewable energy ballot measure are also waging an expensive campaign against Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
New reports show that Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona is spending more than $3.6 million on television ads calling Brnovich “corrupt” and urging voters to turn him out of office — and to support Proposition 127.
The ire is over some wording Brnovich’s office added to the description of Prop. 127 that will appear on the ballot — that the renewable energy mandate, if approved, would apply “irrespective of cost to consumers.”
Proposition 127 would mandate that most electric utilities get at least 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030.
Initiative proponents contend the move will save money in the long run. The opposition, funded by the parent company of utility Arizona Public Service, claims it could add up to $1,900 a year to an average electric bill.
State law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to come up with descriptions of all ballot measures, with the Attorney General’s Office given final review. By the time Brnovich’s office was done, the wording was altered to include the reference to consumer costs.
State Elections Director Eric Spencer, who wrote the original description for the ballot, called the added wording “eyebrow-raising.”
“Unfortunately, the attorney general made the unprecedented step of manipulating ballot language,” said D.J. Quinlan, spokesman for the Prop. 127 campaign. “We felt it was imperative for us to subsequently inform Arizona voters that the language they’re going to read on their ballot is not actually with this proposition.”
Brnovich defended the language, saying it is factually accurate.
What the new commercials seek to do is put a “why” behind the change. And that comes down to money.
The commercials point out that in 2014, Pinnacle West — the parent company of APS — gave $425,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, which in turn spent more than $1.8 million to defeat Brnovich’s Democratic election opponent. Pinnacle West has given another $50,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association in this election cycle.
“So when Prop. 127 threatened APS’ profits, Brnovich bailed them out,” the commercials say.
Brnovich told Capitol Media Services he is not concerned. In fact, he said he sees the commercial as an endorsement of sorts.
“I guess I must be doing something right,” he said. “I’ve said before that you can judge a person by their opponent. And the fact that an out-of-state California billionaire is going to spend millions of dollars to sully my reputation I think says more about him than it says about me.”
That reference is to Tom Steyer, whose NextGen Climate political action committee has so far been the source of all the money raised by the pro-127 organization.
The pro-127 spending is not limited to Brnovich.
The finance reports also show an $83,000 expense to try to keep Republican Gov. Doug Ducey from getting another term.
Quinlan said this is to inform voters of the financial links between Pinnacle West and Ducey, including $100,000 given to the Republican Governors Association this election cycle as well as the maximum $10,200 donation from the company’s political action committee directly to Ducey’s campaign, plus an additional $5,100 each from CEO Don Brandt and his wife, Ginger.
“It’s important for Arizona voters to know what APS thinks it’s getting,” Quinlan said.
Aside from opposing Proposition 127, Ducey played a more direct role in the measure.
He signed legislation that, in effect, allows utility companies to ignore the renewable energy mandate even if voters approve. Instead, they could pay a fine of as little as $100.
Separately, the pro-127 committee has put $250,000 into a campaign to help elect Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears to the all-Republican Arizona Corporation Commission.