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Prop 127 proponents take aim at Arizona's attorney general

Posted at 8:41 PM, Oct 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-13 20:26:37-04

The bullseye is on Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Recent ads make him look like he's in the pocket of the state's largest utility.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona just put up $3.6 million to help his opponent. A voice on a television advertisement says "When 127 threatened APS's profits, Brnovich stepped in and altered its official ballot label." It goes on to say "The state's top election official called it eyebrow-raising."

Emails between Brnovich's office and the election director show he did change the wording from Prop 127's original description to add "irrespective of costs to consumers". In an email to the attorney general's division chief, state election director Eric Spencer went on to write: it contains information exogenous to the ballot measure itself. 

The change of wording of the ballot description by the attorney general’s office in and of itself is common.  The ballot language is drafted by the secretary of state’s office, then sent to the attorney general’s office for review and final approval. {Editor’s note: This paragraph was added after the article was published to clarify the process for ballot measure language approval.}

Though critics argue that line was unnecessary and meant to discourage people who may vote yes, it is accurate. In an email, Marc Harnish from the U.S. Energy Information Administration said customers would have to pick up some of the costs, like construction.

"Anytime a utility builds a plant the cost is passed on to the customers, whether it is coal, gas or renewable. These costs are spread out over many years," Harnish wrote.

However, DJ Quinlan from Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona said the Arizona Corporation Commission would still have the authority to control rates.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona's ad also implies this a pattern of corporate influence in state politics.  

"APS gave over $400,000 to help Mark Brnovich become attorney general."

IRS filings show APS's parent company, Pinnacle West Captial Corporation, gave the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) $425,000 in 2014.  That is about a quarter of what RAGA spent to help defeat Brnovich's opponent that year. 

When asked if Brnovich was persuaded to change the language in the description, his spokesman said no and denied adding it to appease APS.