By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic
Utility regulators scolded the CEO of Arizona Public Service Co. on Wednesday for his company’s role in shutting off power to customers who don’t pay, funding elections for the company’s own regulators and a variety of other issues.
Don Brandt, the CEO of APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., took many hard questions and a company attorney deferred on many others.
Among the most controversial accusations hurled at the company came from Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Robert Burns.
Burns suggested APS was carrying out a political plan hatched a decade ago by Jessica Pacheco, now vice president of external affairs for APS. That plan, which was obtained and reported by The Arizona Republic in 2013, suggested drumming up fake controversies at the Corporation Commission to sway public opinion against the regulators.
Burns said many actions by APS “appear to be taken from the Lincoln Strategy Group / so-called Jessica Pacheco political playbook.”
In 2009, Pacheco was working for Lincoln Strategy Group, a Tempe-based political-consulting firm.
She and another consultant proposed a plan to Brandt that year to help the electric company improve its relationship with the five elected Corporation Commissioners who set APS rates and policies.
It detailed how APS could create phony grassroots organizations that would put out research showing how Arizona regulators were hurting utility customers.
The plan suggested pushing for voters to either add appointed members to the board or to make the state Legislature the final authority on utility rates. It said eliminating the five-member Corporation Commission would be difficult, as the panel was established by the state Constitution.
Burns detailed a variety of items, including how APS has funded political campaigns for the regulators who oversee the company, which he said appear to come from the plan. And Burns suggested Gov. Doug Ducey was involved in helping APS execute a plan to create controversy at the commission.