The past few years have seen an explosion of outside money to aid campaigns. Outside money is not new to politics and has been around since the dawn of democracy. What is new, however, is that much of it can be spent without knowing who is funding it. In the fights over election spending in Arizona, a lot has been made of outside money that the utilities may have given to aid Corporation Commission candidates. The Commission regulates utilities, so it seems to be a fair question. In the newspapers’ zeal to find out everybody’s sources except their own, (which they conveniently feel a 1st amendment right to do) they have launched some serious charges against local utility companies. What they haven’t done is given the same level of scrutiny to solar companies who have used outside money to aid pro-solar commission candidates.
Recently, Chris Mayes, Janet Napolitano’s spokeswoman and a Napolitano appointee to the Corporation Commission, has been leading efforts by solar companies to spend millions of dollars to aid the already largely subsidized solar industry. Voters should be wary when they see mail and hear calls from Mayes and solar dark money so that they don’t fall for the attacks on the current commission or commissioners. The current commission supports Arizona’s renewable energy mandate, which requires the utilities to use a mix of renewable energy already for distribution to Arizona homes. However that does not seem to be enough for the solar industry that wants to make profits off of government tax credits and federal dollars. Conservatives shouldn’t be deceived by claims made by solar alleging that those who want the market to decide the best energy sources are somehow anti-solar. Solar is already a part of the energy mix and will continue to be prevalent for quite some time. How much it should be subsidized by other rate payers is the real question before voters this November. Should a small percentage of solar users get tax credits and raise the cost for other energy users? Voters will weigh in August and November on these critical issues.