(KFYI News) – Two Republican candidates for Arizona Corporation Commission are complaining that Arizona Public Service, the state's largest electric utility, is trying to influence the upcoming primary by quietly funneling money to an independent expenditure committee that supports the other two Republicans in the race.
Vernon Parker and Lucy Mason say APS used to be "hands-off" when it came to trying to have an impact on the Corporation Commission races, but that current CEO Don Brandt has changed that.
"What's happened since Don Brandt and his new executive team has come on board is a direct change that's so noticeable," Mason said at a Thursday news conference outside APS headquarters in downtown Phoenix, asking for Brandt to resign.
"Why does APS want our opponents on the Corporation Commission?" Mason asked, then answered "They want to hand pick their regulators. It's as simple as that."
Parker echoed, "A regulated monopoly should not be able to hand-pick who regulates them."
Republicans Doug Little and Tom Forese are running as a "team" supported by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which has funded multiple mailings on their behalf, and/or slamming Parker and Mason.
In a statement, APS responded to Parker and Mason's comments. It reads, in part:
Today was the latest in a series of staged attempts to create free media coverage that advances the campaigns of certain Arizona Corporation Commission candidates by attacking us. It wasn't a protest, it was a campaign event timed for the first day of voting through early ballots.
TUSK and the wealthy California companies that fund it have orchestrated a non-stop propaganda war for the last 18 months, distorting our record and attempting to disrupt our relationships with customers, regulators, investors and employees. It would be irresponsible for us not to defend our company, which plays a critical role powering Arizona's economy and supporting our communities.
No one disputes our right to participate in the political process, although some have voiced the opinion that we should not exercise that right.
In the end, we will continue to work productively and in good faith with any ACC commissioners elected by the citizens of our state. We have faithfully and reliably served Arizona for more than 125 years. That will not change.