"This Has Wrecked My Career"

Jack Rose was a golden boy, a precocious businessman and political insider. Then he ran into a buzz saw at the Arizona Corporation Commission.

While a supervisor, Rose, then a Democrat, campaigned for Renz Jennings, a fellow Democrat who was elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Also during those busy years, Rose claims in his résumé, he became a real estate consultant and developer who "structured and brokered very complex real estate transactions ... invested as principal in numerous transactions."

After his supervisor term ended in 1989, Rose attended Yale and graduated cum laude in 1991. During his Yale years, he became a "mortgage trader and investor."

Jim Irvin, Jack Rose's patron.
Jim Irvin, Jack Rose's patron.
Commissioner Carl Kunasek
Paolo Vescia
Commissioner Carl Kunasek

He made enough money, he says, to buy his mother "a nice house, the nicest place she's ever lived," in Golden Shores, a community on the Colorado River. She is 78 now, still lives in the same house. Rose says he talks to her several times a week. He says he's also helped other relatives with finances, including his sister's kids.

In 1990, while still a Yale student, Rose volunteered for then-Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson as a "loaned executive" -- a term that would later cause Rose's political enemies to snort: "He's an executive? What company loaned him?" Although Rose was an unpaid volunteer in Johnson's office, his title gave him access to Phoenix power brokers. According to Rose's résumé, his stint at the City of Phoenix included "transitional work with the business community" and advising the mayor on personnel appointments, city policy and political strategy.

"I wasn't an employee. I did it for free. I have done this consistently throughout my career," says Rose, claiming he had stashed away enough money from his real estate ventures and consulting work to afford to volunteer.

Jack Rose and Paul Johnson had a lot in common. They were both young -- at 30, Johnson claimed he was the youngest mayor in Phoenix history -- and they were both ambitious. Johnson went on to run for governor twice, lose twice, and own a telecommunications company. Today, Johnson stands by Rose, saying his friend is "honest" and the victim of a political smear. "The brightest guy I ever met," Johnson says.

After his loaned executive tenure with Johnson, Rose went on to Harvard Law School, graduating in 1996. While still in school, he ran for and was elected to the Maricopa County Charter Committee, which met in Phoenix to restructure county government via a new charter. (The charter was defeated by the voters in 1996.) While on the charter committee, Rose says he clashed with Andy Kunasek, now a Maricopa County Supervisor.

Andy Kunasek, who would not comment for this story, is the son of Corporation Commissioner Carl Kunasek. Andy is also a friend and former roommate of Carl Kunasek's devoted aide, Jerry Porter.

Porter is a lawyer with an MBA. Like Carl Kunasek, Porter is a Nebraskan. He shares his boss's conservative ideology. Once an aide to former governor J. Fife Symington III, Porter is an intense guy, so addicted to politics that his television set is fixed on the C-SPAN channel. In his spare time, he paints apartments. He owns several Valley apartment buildings, one in partnership with Andy Kunasek.

Jerry Porter is Jack Rose's nemesis, every bit as smart and ambitious and wily as Rose himself. Porter says the Irvin/Rose debacle has an element of "fun" to it, for him, and he will happily spin a reporter on the details of the scandal.

But even today, Rose can't see that he and Irvin handed Porter the rope that was ultimately used to string them up.

"Jerry Porter reminds me of Roy Cohn, the aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy," says Rose.

"He is good at throwing bombs."

As a Harvard law graduate, Rose says, he could have "gotten a job at any company in the country, which in retrospect seems like a better decision."

But instead of choosing to work at, say, Sullivan and Cromwell, Jack Rose ended up at the Arizona Corporation Commission. His detractors say he joined the agency so he could network for future business deals; his supporters say he brought impassioned and brilliant perspective to utility regulation.

Among other things, the Corporation Commission regulates telephone, gas, electric and some water companies. With its soporific rate-case hearings, the commission may seem like the most boring agency in Arizona, but it's actually one of the public bodies that most directly affects our lives -- the three elected commissioners set the rates we pay to utilities. And in the past five years, commissioners have tackled deregulation of electric companies. The idea is to break up monopoly electric companies, like Arizona Public Service Company, and open the market for competition.

All of this explains in part why Carl Kunasek supported fellow Republican Jim Irvin when he ran for the commission in 1996. The seat Irvin sought was being vacated by Democratic Commissioner Marcia Weeks, who stepped down because of term limits.

Kunasek had been the sole Republican on the commission for two years. With another Republican on board, the GOP would outnumber the sole remaining Democrat, Commissioner Renz Jennings, at a time when critical deregulation rules were to be finalized.

Kunasek, 67, is a retired East Valley pharmacist. His conservative Republican politics are a reflection of his heartland roots -- he grew up in Nebraska. He was too young to fight in World War II and too old to fight in Korea, but he served three years in the Air Force anyway.

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