"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.

Currently the commission chairman, Kunasek has long soldiered for his party. He spent 16 years in the Arizona House and Senate. As president of the Senate, where he ruled as an iron-fisted patriarch, he was known as a stubborn guy whose face flushed the color of a beefsteak tomato when he was provoked. As Senate president, Kunasek presided over impeachment proceedings of former governor Evan Mecham. He split his vote -- voting for one count of impeachment and against another. After Mecham's ouster, Kunasek's constituency in the pro-Mecham East Valley blamed Kunasek, as Senate president, for letting the impeachment proceedings go forward in the first place. They did not reelect Kunasek.

In the early 1990s, Kunasek was appointed to a federal political post, overseeing the Navajo-Hopi land fracas. His old pal, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, swore him in. In his office at the commission, Kunasek has a framed photograph of the swearing-in ceremony. He looks wistfully at the snapshot and says that, all things considered, he probably should have kept his federal job.

But he gave up the post to run for the Corporation Commission.

Short-lived ex-commissioner Tony West
Short-lived ex-commissioner Tony West
Ex-commissioner Renz Jennings
Casey McKee
Ex-commissioner Renz Jennings

Kunasek allows that perhaps he should have known he would have trouble with Jim Irvin. In retrospect, he says, Irvin seemed a little odd.

Irvin was boisterous and offbeat and told inappropriate and insulting jokes, but he was the only Republican who sought the seat, and Kunasek felt a duty to help elect him. He figured Irvin would fall into place and toe the Republican line.

Insiders of both political persuasions describe Irvin as "a doofus." The scion of a successful California security-business family, Irvin volunteers as a reserve Maricopa County sheriff's deputy. He has posed for newspaper pictures in his uniform.

Irvin is fiercely loyal to his friends. For instance, he once suggested over golf that Southwest Gas board member Leonard Judd nominate Irvin's buddy, Gary Goodman, to the Southwest board. Judd later testified he found Irvin's behavior "improper." After all, as a Corporation Commissioner, Irvin regulated Southwest Gas. He had no business meddling with its board. And Irvin also regulated Goodman's Bermuda Water Company. (Just last summer, Irvin also tried to amend a hearing officer's estimate of the value of Goodman's company. A higher value would have meant that Goodman could sell his company for more money, but Irvin's amendment failed.)

Irvin first injected himself into Arizona politics by squandering $300,000 of his own money in the 1994 Secretary of State primary race. Jane Dee Hull won.

In 1996, Irvin ran for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Kunasek and Porter were so eager to get Irvin elected they even accepted Jack Rose's offer to help with the campaign. (By then, Rose had become a Republican.) Yet Kunasek and Porter were wary. Rose had switched parties, and they wondered if his philosophical change of heart was genuine. Also, Andy Kunasek had clashed with Rose over the county charter.

Rose says he suggested Irvin's campaign could be bolstered with radio spots. The ads, written by Porter, were based on the Republican contention that the Democrat-controlled board had kept the rates of small water companies artificially low, which kept those companies from investing in safeguards to keep the water safe. Jennings says the message was that Democrats made water unsafe to drink.

"It was stupid and dishonest," says Jennings.

While working on the Irvin campaign, Rose also set up the Ivy Group, which he said at the time was an educational consulting service. But he lost interest in the Ivy Group after Jim Irvin was sworn into office.

The circumstances surrounding Irvin's oath-of-office ceremony were the first real sign that Irvin might be a problem for Kunasek. Irvin requested a fancy swearing-in ceremony. Kunasek was well-connected, so his aides planned a gala and invited a slew of Republican dignitaries. Yet after requesting a big bash, Irvin was outraged by the planned event.

No one could figure out why.

In fact, no one seemed to be able to figure out Irvin at all.

No one, perhaps, except for Jack Rose.

In the spring of 1997, just a few months after he moved into his office at 1200 West Washington, Irvin announced that he was starting a "loaned executive" program and that his first loaned executive would be Jack Rose, who would serve from six months to a year, gratis. Rose even signed a pledge saying, among other things, he would not promote his own interests.

The announcement of Rose's appointment was not received warmly at the commission. As Irvin's "loaned executive," Rose began attending deregulation meetings with senior utility executives, began insinuating himself into sensitive projects normally reserved for staffers.

Rose's presence upset Jennings, who thought it improper for Rose to be so intimately involved with state business. But Rose wrote Jennings a memo asserting his motives were pure; he had no conflict of interest, he simply wanted to advise Irvin on regulatory matters. The Rose memo mollified Jennings. He backed off. After all, he had more pressing political problems. As the sole Democrat, Jennings, who'd been a commissioner for 12 years, was suddenly outgunned by two Republicans he did not particularly admire. He disliked Irvin because of the unsafe-water radio spots. And he found Kunasek dictatorial and destructive to the commission he'd tried to build for 12 years.

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