Solar Money Buying the Election for Bob Burns?

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.

Shawnna Bolick Receives Endorsements from Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Stump and Commissioner Brenda Burns

Shawnna Bolick

Shawnna Bolick Receives Endorsements from Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Stump and Commissioner Brenda Burns

Phoenix, AZ- March 26, 2014- Today, Shawnna Bolick, Republican candidate for Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 28, received Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Stump‘s and Commissioner Brenda Burns‘ endorsements.

“Shawnna’s knowledge and expertise in critical policy areas affecting the State of Arizona are hard to come by,” stated Chairman Stump. “I know Shawnna has what it takes to be an effective legislator and a strong communicator. She is not only committed to understanding the big picture but is willing to delve into the weeds to craft sound public policy.”

“Shawnna is a strong fiscal conservative who will prioritize the needs of Arizona. Watching her raise her two children I know how important education and the future of the state are to her,” declared Commissioner Burns. “Shawnna is a quick study and eager to roll up her sleeves to find the right mix of pro-growth ideas benefiting the state. Arizona should be so lucky to have her willing to serve us in such a capacity.”

“I am honored to have Chairman Stump’s and Commissioner Burns’ endorsements. Bob and I are both students of public policy and understand that sound policy often means fine tuning the details. Brenda has always been a role model and someone I would like to emulate in leadership in the Legislature. I have a great deal of admiration for both Bob and Brenda,” said Bolick.

Shawnna Bolick has lived in Legislative District 28 for 13 years. Shawnna and her husband, Clint, have two children, Ryne (11 .) and Kali (9), plus their five year old rescued greyhound, Beary Goldwater, living in the shadows of Squaw Peak.


Shawnna L.M. Bolick can be reached via email at, or via cell at 602-842-1912. For more information about her campaign please visit

APS Stock Price, Profits Should Be Secondary to Arizona Solar Energy Consumer Choice

During their last earnings call, as reported in the Arizona Republic, Arizona Public Service (APS) CEO Don Brandt was asked about the financial impact rooftop solar could have on APS if solar’s popularity continued to soar.

RooftopSolarJust like the public education monopoly, the APS utility monopoly is concerned that more energy efficiency and choice, specifically more rooftop solar, is starting to eat into its profits and revenue growth.  APS clearly disclosed this to its investors when it revealed that between now and 2015, it expects its electricity sales to grow by less than 1% even though its customer base will grow 2% annually. The reason? APS customers are investing in more energy efficiency with rooftop solar being the primary technology of choice.

Frankly, how APS addresses this with investors is no concern of mine. And neither should it concern the Arizona Corporation Commission.  A more innovative future with more energy choices for Arizona consumers should not and must not be dictated by the utility’s bottom line. By that same logic, we would have harnessed the Internet because of the challenge it posed to newspapers and many other technologies.

I would think by now that any astute energy consumer would recognize that APS’s sudden concern about the proliferation of rooftop solar in Arizona has nothing to do with empathy for Arizona ratepayers.  It has everything to do with curbing a disruptive technology growing quickly in their existing marketplace. As one pollster has opined, allowing APS to do this would be “political malpractice.”

But there appears to be a far greater threat to APS’ stock price (PNW) on the horizon and that, fortunately for consumers, is a healthy competitive change.  Because of their blatantly naked attempts to kill independent solar in Arizona, along with other reasons, the Arizona Corporation Commission is rightfully looking at opening up more utility competition in Arizona.  In fact, they took the first step down this path last week. Kudos to Chairman Bob Stump and Commissioners Gary Pierce, Brenda Burns, Susan Bitter Smith and Bob Burns for their actions. Clearly, APS’ effort to thwart more solar choice in Arizona is exactly why we need more competition in Arizona.

Choice and competition – these are concepts all conservatives can rally behind.  And it is one all Wall Street stock investors will surely be watching.  The bottom line for consumers is we simply cannot have a better energy future in Arizona if the primary focus is on APS profits rather than innovation and competition that always best serves the marketplace.

GOP Corporation Commission Candidates Adamantly Refuse Repealing Renewal Energy Mandate


At the NE Valley Pachyderm Coalition meeting Wednesday, September 14, 2011, the three GOP Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) candidates discussed their views of the proper role of the ACC, regulatory issues, and the Renewable Energy Mandate.

This is the first event at which the GOP ACC candidates, Bob Stump (Incumbent), Bob Burns, and Susan Bitter-Smith appeared together for this campaign.

There is a recent NASA study  that debunks the computer models on which global warming projections from greenhouse gasses is based. It was these models that helped “fuel” the alternative energy mandate. Now that those projections have been discredited, it is time to change Arizona energy policy to reflect reality rather than unsubstantiated doomsday scenarios ala Al Gore.

Susan Bitter-Smith and Bob Burns related their experiences on the board of the Central Arizona Plan (CAP) which has a huge role in managing water supplies. Bitter-Smith was President of the board during the last 4 of her 12 years of service on it. She mentioned how water rates and property taxes were both reduced during her tenure. Bob Burns was credited with bringing in outside auditors to audit CAP financial records on a regular basis as required by law, but not done until he raised the issue and followed through to get it done. The value of this experience for being on the ACC, according to Susan Bitter-Smith, is that most of the work of the ACC involves regulating water rates, and being on the CAP board provides excellent experience with water issues.

Bob Stump and Bob Burns both described their experience and record in the state legislature. Both were recognized as conservatives during their legislative tenure by a variety of organizations. In fact, Bob Burns was rated as a top Senator by the Pachyderm Coalition.

Bob Stump, as an incumbent, had more information about current issues recently before the commission and was able to talk about those not currently pending before the commission. He made some humorous comments about drug tests in reference to alleged possession and use of drugs by a Democrat commissioner.

Bob Burns served as Appropriations Committee chairman in the legislature as well as Senate President. He said that his Appropriations Committee experience would be helpful as member of the ACC as it prepared him to dealing with competing interests and use staff to help evaluate the assertions of various interests and come up with good solutions. He said that he viewed the role of the ACC as being more judicial than legislative in the sense that rate approvals and policy decisions should be based on interpreting facts of a case within the context of laws and protecting rate payers. Burns does not think the ACC should be advocating for particular people, companies, or industries; it should work to protect rate payers and prevent fraud according to the law.

Questions were raised about smart meters costs and potential health effects. Bob Stump said that he had reviewed studies about the smart meters and was personally convinced that they pose no danger, but he is respectful of others who don’t share those views. He and the other candidates all supported a policy of allowing electricity customers to opt out of smart meters. One of the advantages mentioned by the candidates about smart meters is the reduced cost of meter reading. In response to questions about who will pay the extra costs of those opting out, Stump and Burns indicated that they would be receptive to adjusting meter reading fees of utilities to reflect the actual costs of meter reading. Bitter-Smith said she would have to review the information more before supporting different meter reading rates for those who opt out of smart meters.

All of the candidates said they were committed to keeping utility rates as low as possible consistent with utilities being able to earn a reasonable return on their investments. Keeping companies profitable is essential to maintaining and improving service, but the ACC works to ensure that costs are not inflated so that rates can be as low as possible. Susan Bitter-Smith expressed concern that the Federal government is trying to close down a coal powered electrical generating plant that provides the electricity to pump water from the Colorado River to the rest of Arizona because of its carbon footprint. She said that pumping costs were the largest component of water costs, so switching from a relatively inexpensive coal plant to other sources for electricity will substantially drive up the cost of water. Bob Stump added that the Obama administration is engaging in a war on fossil fuels that is driving up the cost of energy. He said natural gas deposits in West Virginia have been discovered that can supply US energy needs for 100 years, but the Federal government is blocking the extraction of this gas.

This raised a question about the renewable energy mandate. This mandate requires that the percentage of electricity generated by renewable energy sources eventually be increased to 15% by the year 2025. It will increase by 1% each year until then. After that, the mandate expires. The issue with renewable energy sources is that most currently cost at least 10 times more than other energy sources and are often less reliable. This means that, if costs compared to nuclear and fossil fuels don’t come down, we could easily be paying more than twice as much for electricity because of this mandate than we need to. This is clearly not a way to keep costs down, and the candidates agreed with that.

The candidates all said that they would never have voted for the mandate, but, now that it is in place, they would not vote to repeal it. Bob Stump said that repealing the mandate would be like pulling the rug out from alternative energy firms that have made investments based on the mandate. He said that Arizona benefited from the investments and jobs created. He also said that the hope is that innovation and technological improvements will lower the cost of alternative energy by the time the mandates expire. He also said that Republican commissioners Gary Pierce and Brenda Burns who are not up for election for another two years share his view. Apparently, people who made investment decisions based on the low cost of electricity before the mandate was passed do not merit the same consideration as the investors in renewable energy companies. Bob Burns said that repeal of the mandate would possibly expose the state to lawsuits from solar electric companies. That seems unlikely if rate payers are not allowed to sue the state for imposition of the mandate in the first place.

Bob Stump mentioned how, when he originally ran for the ACC in 2008, that the “Solar Team” of Democrats won two of the three seats up for election and that his election was by a very narrow margin. Perhaps challenging the likely “Solar Team” for 2012 is considered too risky by the candidates if they appear unwilling to continue with the renewable energy mandate (mostly solar energy). Bob Burns said that solar energy appears to be popular with voters – another reason not to repeal the mandate.  When asked why electricity customers who are allowed to buy their electricity on a competitive market (only generation of electricity – not its distribution over power lines) from any company could not simply choose alternative energy electricity suppliers if that is what they want and let everyone else keep their low rates, there was no substantive answer given except that it would mean reversing the current policy. It appears that solar power would be less popular if people who want it had to pay for it themselves. This means that solar companies and their employees have a strong political interest in making sure that the mandate does not get repealed, and they would have a strong incentive to fund very aggressive political campaigns against ACC candidates supporting repeal. Without a government body supporting their businesses, solar energy companies would go bankrupt and their employees would have to find new jobs. Candidates running clean elections campaigns each get $137,811 for the general election. There are no longer matching funds available. That means the solar energy industry, which depends on the ACC to survive rather than consumer preference for low cost of its electricity, can easily outspend the three Republicans combined with a $500,000 “solar campaign” targeting Republicans and supporting Democrats and appealing to people who don’t understand how much solar energy really costs.

Energy, including electricity, is the life blood of an economy. Costs made artificially high because of government policies will hurt consumers through what is likely to be a doubling of electric rates. Businesses will take this into account when deciding where to locate their operations. The ACC candidates said that Arizona’s mandate is lower than other Western states, but Arizona competes with other states such as Texas for job creating businesses. The “benefits” of having solar companies in Arizona will be at the cost of seriously damaging the rest of Arizona’s economy.

The GOP ACC candidates are in agreement to maintain the expensive renewable energy mandate. Since there are only three candidates for three positions, they all have an incentive to play it safe and not rock the boat on solar energy. Having Republicans would be better than having Democrats on the ACC even if they are unwilling to fully support Republican principles of free enterprise and not having government picking winners and losers – either individual businesses or industries. Environmental arguments such as global warming have been debunked, so justification of higher costs based on environmental concerns cannot be legitimately defended. The only way the mandate will be repealed is if conservative Republicans opposing the mandate run for the ACC and win, the current candidates change their position based on the latest scientific evidence available, or if the legislature passes a bill to repeal it and the governor signs it.

Information about future NE Valley Pachyderm Coalition meetings was provided just before the meeting concluded.

Next month, Congressman Ben Quayle will be speaking about pressing issues such as the Federal budget, Federal regulations, and the economy. Lynne Weaver, Chairman of Prop 13 Arizona, will briefly describe the ballot initiatives for the Paradise Valley and Cave Creek School districts.

In November, Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs will be speaking. Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal will be the December speaker.


GOP Corp Commission Candidates to Address NE Valley Pachyderm Coalition

The three declared Republican candidates for Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) will talk to the NE Valley Pachyderm Coalition about their plans as Corporation Commissioners.

The candidates are Bob Stump (incumbent), Bob Burns (former State Senate President), and Susan Bitter-Smith.

The ACC is one of the lowest profile government organizations that has a huge impact on the lives and financial well being of Arizonans. It regulates utility rates and service levels for privately owned utilities. This impacts the quality and price of our electric, natural gas, telecommunications, and water services.

There will be plenty of time for questions and answers, so this is your chance to really find out where these candidates stand on economic regulation issues that will have a direct impact on you and your familiy.

Location: Appaloosa Public Library
7377 E. Silverstone Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85255
(Near intersection of N Scottsdale and E Pinnacle Peak)

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. (2nd Wed of Month)
Time: 6:45-7:00 pm meet & greet. Meeting from 7-8:15pm

Contact Information:
Howard Levine,
NE Valley Chapter Chairman ,