PHOENIX — The state’s largest electric utility and its top executives are putting money into campaigns to ensure that Doug Ducey remains governor for another four years.
Pinnacle West Capital Corp., parent company of Arizona Public Service, has donated $10,200 to the Ducey for Governor campaign through its political action committee. That’s on top of $5,100 that CEO Don Brandt has given to the same committee and an identical amount to the separate Ducey Victory Fund. Brandt’s wife, Ginger, has put her own $5,100 into the Ducey for Governor fund.
James Hatfield, the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, also has put $5,000 combined into the two funds. Ditto for David Falck, another executive vice president and general counsel.
But the biggest donation does not show up in state campaign finance reports: Pinnacle West has given $100,000 of corporate money directly to the Republican Governors Association.
What’s important about that donation is the RGA then can turn around and use money from its war chest to help influence the election. It did precisely that in 2014 when it put nearly $5 million into campaign commercials attacking Democrat Fred DuVal, making it the single largest source of funding that secured Ducey’s win.
The dollars found in reports so far represent what is publicly required to be disclosed. What is not known is whether Pinnacle West is giving money to other groups to help influence Arizona politics.
The extent of that spending is precisely the focus of the lawsuit now playing out in Maricopa County Superior Court.
What is known is that two “dark money” groups spent $3.2 million in 2014 to help elect Republicans Doug Little and Tom Forese to the Arizona Corporation Commission, the organization that sets utility rates. But the groups, Save Our Future Now and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, have refused to disclose their donors, saying that’s not required because the Internal Revenue Service classifies them as “social welfare organizations.”
APS will neither confirm nor deny that either it or Pinnacle West was the source of those dollars.
Since then, Commissioner Bob Burns has tried to question corporate executives about the spending, arguing that it is relevant to the panel’s 4-1 vote last year allowing APS to collect an additional $7 million a month from customers. When APS balked, Burns took his case to Judge Daniel Kiley, who has yet to rule on the issue.