Poll: 86% would oust Bitter Smith

Posted at 6:37 PM, Sep 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-10 21:37:41-04

A new poll released Thursday shows most likely voters think the Chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission should be removed from office, if allegations of conflict of interest made against her are true.

The poll comes a week after attorney Thomas Ryanfiled a formal complaint against Susan Bitter Smith, calling for her to be removed from office, alleging that she’s a paid lobbyist for companies she regulates. 

Bitter Smith is a registered lobbyist for Cox Communications, she’s the leader of a telecom trade group, and she works as a public-relations consultant.

The complaint also accused Bitter Smith of being paid by Go-Daddy founder and billionaire Bob Parsons to move an APS substation so he could build a golf course in Scottsdale. The Corporation Commission regulates APS.

Nearly 86 percent of likely voters said they think she should be removed from office if these allegations are true.

Bitter Smith is one of five elected commissioners to the Corporation Commission, which regulates power companies, gas and water utilities in the state.

The poll, which as a 3.34 percent margin of error, was conducted via automated telephone survey by public affairs group MBQF Consulting. The group surveyed 863 voters.

Bitter Smith’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday. But, she released a statement to ABC15 when the complaint was filed against her, denying any conflict of interest.

“There is no basis for the complaint. I am not now and have never been employed by a company that is regulated by the ACC,” she said in the statement. “This is part of a wider effort by a solar backed dark money group committed to forcing rate payers in Arizona to heavily subsidize solar.”

She has not denied her employment as a lobbyist, but has said she lobbies for the cable arm of Cox, not the telephone arm that’s regulated by the Commission.

Michael Noble, whose firm conducted the poll, said the most surprising part of it to him was that 86 percent of voters said they’d heard of the Corporation Commission.

“Either people are suddenly thinking about utility regulation, or they have been watching nearly a year’s worth of news stories and allegations of serious problems,” he said in a press release.

The poll also showed that 80 percent of likely voters would rather have their electric rates determined by regulators, and not set by the market.