What's happening in Arizona right now is sufficient to make every conservative shudder. And I'm not talking about the border crisis. I am talking about the state's largest regulated utility, Arizona Public Service. APS is literally attempting to purchase its regulators in the state's August 26th Republican primary (early ballots go out this week). If successful, the implications are national, especially for fledgling solar power, and crony capitalism will have a new model that will boomerang on the Republican Party.
First, a little background. APS has concluded that too much energy choice via rooftop solar is bad for it. The more people turn their lights off, making an energy choice of rooftop solar, the less money the publicly traded electric monopoly makes. In sunny Arizona, people are understandably going solar as costs have come down – even though subsidies have gone away – by the tens of thousands. As their energy costs have skyrocketed in some areas, churches, schools, seniors, rich, poor, you name them - everyone is considering a switch to the less costly solar.
Last year, APS attempted to get the all-Republican Arizona Corporation Commission, its regulators, to pass a massive new tax that would make going with rooftop solar too expensive. By a 3-to-2 vote, the commissioners rejected the APS plan to "tax the sun," but still passed a much smaller tax.
Well, APS didn't like that very much. Who were these Republicans after all, to discover that energy choice should be much like school and health care choice?
Fast forward to this election year. Two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission are open. APS has found at least a couple of dark money front groups – fooling the Arizona Free Enterprise Club as one, an organization that was started by legitimate conservatives – through which to route ratepayer money to, in order to install its two favored Republican candidates: the inexperienced and Second Amendment enemy Doug Little and the lobbyist largesse-loving State Representative Tom Forese. Another group, mysteriously named "Arizona 2014," tellingly will not disclose its donors. "Save Our Future Now" has issued hit pieces against Parker - a whopping $82,000 to oppose him in what is usually considered a fairly low-level race in Arizona. Even more telling, APS has not denied donating to the groups this year, even though it denied donating to groups like that in previous elections.
The government-regulated monopoly APS is spending mightily to own and control its regulators. This is not the way American democracy is supposed to work, especially when Arizona Republicans have two other good conservative Republican choices in this race.
One is conservative African-American Vernon Parker. Parker served in both Bush administrations, and as mayor of Paradise Valley, Ariz., and was the area's 2012 GOP nominee for Congress. His story is an amazing American one. Born into a neighborhood of drugs and crime, he escaped it to become one of the Republican Party's most inspirational leaders. He is running on a diverse team with former Arizona State Representative Lucy Mason. She once chaired the House Energy Committee, and hails from Republican stronghold Yavapai County in conservative northern rural Arizona. Both oppose the new taxes on rooftop solar that APS wants. Aren't Republicans supposed to stand against new taxes? Parker and Mason do. Little and Forese do not.
The APS-funded campaign against Parker and Mason tries to tie them to President Obama. Laughable doesn't even begin to describe such a connection. I know Parker personally and he is very conservative and has no love for Obama - uhhh, he was a Bush appointee.
There are terrible problems with APS currently. Due to the virtual monopolies it owns, some residents with nothing more than dirt yards report water bills as high as their electric bills.
What we do know is this: In Arizona, two conservative Republicans are offering voters not only terrific Republican bona fides, but a commitment to taking on the high-cost energy monopoly.
If APS prevails, using ratepayer money to defeat potential regulators it doesn't like, it will set freedom and our party back to the 1900s, while advancing crony capitalism to a whole new level. APS realizes that a black conservative Republican like Vernon Parker is a real threat to entrenched liberalism, socialism and corporate subsidies, and so it will stop at nothing to defeat him. APS isn't a "friend" of Republican principles, and the sooner we reject its government subsidized-monopolies, the better to defeat this subtle but ingenuous attack on conservative principles. This type of enemy of liberty will stop at nothing in order to defeat and destroy an intelligent, principled, black conservative.