Backers of proposition pay for ads attacking Brnovich,
PHOENIX — Supporters of a renewable energy ballot measure have opened up a new front in their bid to get it approved: an expensive attack on Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
New reports obtained by Capitol Media Services show that Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona is spending more than $3.6 million on television ads calling Brnovich “corrupt’’ and urging voters to turn him out of office — and support Proposition 127.
What’s behind all that is the move by Brnovich’s office to add some verbiage to the description of the initiative that will appear on the ballot to mandate that most electric utilities get at least 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030.
Initiative proponents contend the move will save money in the long run. The opposition, funded by the parent company of Arizona Public Service, claims it could add up to $1,900 a year to an average electric bill.
State law requires the Secretary of State’s office to come up with descriptions of all ballot measures, with the Attorney General’s office given final review. But by the time Brnovich’s office was done, the verbiage was altered to say that the mandate, if approved, would apply “irrespective of cost to consumers.’’
“It’s not something we wanted to do,’’ said campaign spokesman DJ Quinlan of the commercials.
“Unfortunately, the attorney general made the unprecedented step of manipulating ballot language,’’ he continued. “We felt it was imperative for us to subsequently warn Arizona voters that the language they’re going to read on their ballot is not actually with this proposition.’’
Brnovich defended the language, saying it is factually accurate. He said that the measure, which would amend the Arizona Constitution, moves away from existing requirements of how the Arizona Corporation Commission which now has purview over issues like this, sets rates.
But state Elections Director Eric Spencer, who crafted the original explanation -- the one without the additional wording -- had his own thoughts.
“The Prop 127 language is certainly eyebrow-raising because it cites information exogenous to the ballot measure itself,’’ Spencer wrote to the AG’s office in an email, using a term to mean that the words in the explanation were not taken from the ballot language itself but from outside factors.
“But, I’m sure you’ve calculated the legal and political risks of adding that,’’ Spencer added.
What the new commercials seek to do is put a “why’’ behind the change. And that comes down to money.
It points out that in 2014, Pinnacle West gave $425,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association which turned around and spent more than $1.8 million to defeat Felecia Rotellini, Brnovich’s Democrat foe. Pinnacle West has given another $50,000 to RAGA in this election cycle.
“So when Prop 127 threatened APS’ profits, Brnovich bailed them out,’’ the commercial says.
Brnovich told Capitol Media Services he is not concerned. In fact, the attorney general said he sees the commercial as an endorsement of sorts.
“I guess I must be doing something right,’’ he said.
AN IMAGE FROM AN ADVERTISEMENT AGAINST ATTORNEY General Mark Brnovich is seen in this courtesy photo.