Vetting each candidate and sharing insider information on the propositions, the Payson Tea Party met to review the ballot once more before casting their vote in Tuesday’s elections.
They talked a lot about “dark money,” perhaps the most worrisome development in the current statewide elections.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time and effort to discern what is going on behind the scenes,” said Glen Galster. “Do you know what the Arizona Free Enterprise Club is?”
No one had any idea.
The man then explained that his research showed the giant electric utility Arizona Public Service was funding the group, one of a bewildering number of independent expenditure groups that can spend as much as they like and not reveal the source of their money — so long as they don’t “coordinate” their efforts with a candidate. A Supreme Court decision removed all restrictions on the shadowy groups, which have now become a major force in campaigns nationwide. They have played a crucial role this year in the secretary of state, governor and Arizona Corporation Commission Republican primaries.
“The spread sheet lists how much money was spent to elect or defeat a candidate,” he said. “They hardly spent anything in the 2010 and 2008 election cycles, but so far (in this one) it’s spent $1.6 million.”
He said the Arizona Free Enterprise Club “badly” wants Justin Pierce for secretary of state, so much so the group has put six figures both toward electing him and doing attack ads against his opponents.
Justin’s father, Gary Pierce currently sits on the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) board, which regulates APS.
The Tea Party researcher also delved into the corporation commission race.
The two candidates say they’re running to protect consumers —Lucy Mason and Vernon Parker. Arizona Free Enterprise — funded by APS — has unleashed attack ads on them. They have managed to force several of the Arizona Free Enterprise ads off the air. In addition, they say some of the ads have proved so false and damaging that they’re seeking damages.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club has strongly backed Republican candidates Doug Little and Tom Forese.
Since the new ACC board has been elected, the commission has eliminated incentives that had resulted in a boom in rooftop solar power installations. The commission had previously required APS to buy excess electrical power from people with solar panels, which effectively reduced the cost of the panels for homeowners. But after Republicans unseated the two Democrats on the commission, the ACC dismantled the incentives. Now, several of the candidates say they want to impose extra taxes on solar installations — which effectively compete with APS in selling power.
To close up the ballot discussion, Tea Party Vice President Shirley Dye explained what Home Rule, or Proposition 400, meant.
“Basically, Home Rule is local control,” she said.
The measure would allow Star Valley and Payson to exceed a state-imposed spending limit. If voters don’t approve the measure, it would not cut any taxes — but it would force both towns to drastically cut services.
Another ballot measure asked Payson voters to approve the revisions in the town’s general plan approved recently by the town council. The most significant changes in the general plan would increase maximum allowed housing densities in many areas and give developers of big, multi-zoned and multi-use developments more flexibility.
Dye explained the general plan from an insider’s point of view; she had volunteered to serve on the committee working on the general plan.
“If we pass it now, we can amend it later,” she said, “but if we don’t, we won’t have anything to work with.”