BENCH THIS UTILITY MAN

It is possible to make too much of the hidden business relationship of candidate Castillo and his press champion Bob L'Ecuyer. After all, the column is now defunct.

Mark Genrich, deputy editor of the editorial pages of the Phoenix Gazette, charged into this vacuum.

In the past six months, virtually one third of Genrich's output has boosted Castillo's candidacy by savaging Weeks.

In his columns, Genrich often cites Ted Humes as an authority.
Humes is marvelous. And much more interesting than the L'Ecuyer-Castillo connection.

When Ted Humes served as a hearing officer during the years the Corporation Commission routinely rubber-stamped utility requests for rate hikes, he was an eccentric bit player in Arizona politics. Once, in response to a consumer's complaint about Ma Bell, Humes demanded to know if the customer would prefer the service of the phone company in Russia. A former CIA man, Humes visited European battlefields on vacation.

In the early Eighties, Arizona changed. Following a string of astronomical rate hikes, it was discovered that the Republicans on the Corporation Commission were raising the price of electricity using language drafted by the very utilities the commissioners were elected to regulate. The attorney general sued.

In 1983, after a bitter battle, the legislature created the Residential Utility Consumers Office (RUCO). RUCO was funded as an advocate, with legal staff, to speak on behalf of Arizona's consumers at rate hearings.

In 1986 Ted Humes ran for the Corporation Commission on a platform that included withering attacks on RUCO and an understood bias on behalf of big utilities. He was defeated.

But in January of 1987, the newly elected governor, Evan Mecham, appointed Ted Humes to take over RUCO.

At the time, Republican state Senator Greg Lunn recalled being told by Mecham that the governor intended to cripple RUCO. Although Mecham denied this, the governor was not shy in his criticism of the consumer agency.

In the midst of an unprecedented rate hike sought by APS, Humes fired the staff attorney who'd spent six months preparing the case. He replaced the terminated lawyer with a litigator who'd been hired away four days earlier from his previous job as chief engineer for Williams Air Force Base. Thus RUCO turned into a straw man. Humes also brought on board as staffers an attorney who'd been working for the utilities as well as one Todd Fahey who'd founded Students for John Birch at Arizona State University.

Described as overly suspicious of his staff, Humes began to keep his office calendar in Polish.

When the travesty of Ted Humes running a state-mandated consumer agency ended, Humes turned up as an acknowledged Castillo supporter and an expert witness in Genrich's wild ramblings.

What is Marcia Weeks' crime? She has held utility rates to reasonable levels.

Genrich is one of those silver polishers from the gentry who truly believes that giant corporate interest can never profit too greatly.

In the Reagan era, this sentiment was not only given a good airing, it became law. Voodoo economic stunts like the trickle-down theory took on credence. This idea suggested that the more the corporate executives gobbled, the more crumbs would fall from their lips for the rest of us. And so, to take one example, the savings-and-loan industry was deregulated. Out of the same economic gestalt, the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed enormous utility- operation monopolies to set up holding companies and diversify.

In Arizona this turned into a swell scam. The state's largest utility, Arizona Public Service, had always enjoyed a state-granted monopoly. No one was allowed to compete against APS. Furthermore, profits were guaranteed. The Corporation Commission was nominally chartered to see that profits from this monopoly did not become obscene and that ratepayers were not pillaged.

The old commission failed on both counts.
Electricity from APS was some of the most expensive in America and soon the giant utility wanted to take its enormous profits and gamble.

Under the Securities and Exchange Commission exemptions, APS bought up vast tracts of real estate, Arizona's largest savings and loan, a chunk of the Phoenix Suns and a partridge in a pear tree. The utility's first venture outside a state-guaranteed monopoly ended in a financial Apocalypse bringing APS to the brink of bankruptcy.

On the national level, we are beginning to see that a Charles Keating cannot happen without a Senator Dennis DeConcini or a Senator John McCain.

On the local level, an APS cannot run rampant without a Joe Castillo, a Ted Humes, and a Mark Genrich.

Turley's plunge into real estate speculation, sports franchises, savings-and-loan ownership and resort management is only possible in an atmosphere that condones monopoly profits so high that they have to be laundered somewhere.

It never occurs to the Ted Humeses, the Mark Genrichs, the Joe Castillos to say, "Let's lower the monopoly's profits by lowering the cost of electricity."

But there is something more remarkable still about the candidacy of Joe Castillo.

Let's assume you believe that the rich already pay too much in taxes. Let's grant that the savings-and-loan crisis is actually the result of government auditors hounding honest businessmen like Charles Keating. We'll agree that what's good for Keith Turley--like exclusive skyboxes at Cardinals games--is good for Arizona.

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