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APS donated $250,000 to Gov. Hobbs after trying to defeat her

Hobbs aide reveals donors to $1.5 million fund after governor criticized for lack of disclosure. Utility critic says ratepayers foot the bill for APS spending.

PHOENIX — Arizona Public Service donated more than a million dollars during the 2022 race for governor, right on through Democrat Katie Hobbs' public swearing-in in early January. 

After putting most of its money into trying to defeat Hobbs, APS came through for Hobbs when she won.

The state's largest utility, and arguably its most powerful corporation, made the largest single donation - $250,000 - to Hobbs' Inaugural Fund, according to documents released by the fund's director.

The fund is run by Hobbs' campaign manager and set up as a so-called "social welfare" fund that doesn't have to disclose donations. 

Hobbs came under fire for refusing to reveal the donors.

"I don't even know how much people gave, and no one on my senior staff does, either," Hobbs said on Jan. 6 during "Sunday Square Off." She acknowledged that she signed off on the fund.

Nicole De Mont, the fund director, said in a prepared statement Tuesday: "With the inaugural events now behind us, we are fulfilling the governor's commitment to transparency by disclosing the donations made to the Inaugural Fund, as well as expenditures that helped cover the costs of the inauguration," 

The donor list was first reported by Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. The fund's existence was revealed on Dec. 31 by Capitol Media Services' Bob Christie.

Plenty left over for Gov. Hobbs

Here are four takeaways from the list of funders:

  • A total of $1.5 million was raised from about 120 donors

  • The second-largest givers - at $100,000 each - were health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, an Arizona Association of Realtors advocacy group called the Realtors Issues Mobilization Committee, and Sunshine Residential Homes, a state Department of Child Safety contractor that provides emergency shelter space for children removed from their homes

  • APS' $250,000 donation could have more than covered the $207,000 cost of the inauguration

  • The balance of the $1.5 million in donations could be used on the so-called Protocol Fund for governors, or as a kitty for Hobbs donations to candidates in 2024.

Big bet on electing republican

APS made the donation to the Hobbs Inaugural Fund after losing its big bet on electing another Republican governor to succeed Doug Ducey. 

According to campaign finance documents, APS' parent, Phoenix-based Pinnacle West, had funneled $850,000 to the Ducey-led Republican Governors Association.

The RGA spent $12 million on ads attacking Hobbs. It didn't work. She narrowly defeated Republican election denier Kari Lake. 

'Source of the money is me and you'

Management consultant Abhay Padgaonkar has done a deep dive on APS' finances. 

He said in an interview that the utility's customers were footing the bill for political spending.

"Legally, they claim that they can spend money on whoever they want, that that's their First Amendment right," Padgaonkar said. 

"The fact of the matter is, the source of the money is me and you. What about our First Amendment rights?"

APS has about 1 million customers in Arizona.

Padgaonkar's analysis of a 2017 APS rate increase alleged consumers were overcharged by $100 million a year.

'Contributions not included in rates'

An APS spokeswoman responded via email:

"Our political contributions are funded by two sources: shareholder funds or employee contributions to the political action committee. 

These specific contributions were funded by shareholder funds. No political contributions are included in APS customer rates."

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