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Steinberg, who heads the Phoenix office and reports to Topham in Salt Lake City, monitors PacifiCorp's progress locally from a corner office on the third floor of the Renaissance One tower, overlooking Patriots Square. "My role here, the role of all of us, is to let folks know we really are committed to the community," Steinberg says.

The company has rented 3,000 square feet of office space in the building, but most of it stands empty. What rooms are furnished have a temporary look to them, as if no one expects to stay long regardless of the outcome of the merger battle. If PacifiCorp wins, they'll have their pick of space in PinWest's midtown high-rise offices, or in the plush new APS offices on the top floors of the Arizona Center a few blocks away. And if the merger flops, well, it won't take long to pack.

Despite its emptiness, the PacifiCorp office does not feel unfriendly. The windows are so close to the ground a person could lean out (if the windows opened) and shout requests to the noontime musicians in the park. And the office is populated by people on the most exhilarating trip of their careers, whose current duties boil down to behaving as if they were on the threshold of the most stimulating love affair of their lives.

Which is to say, attentive, charming and sweet. Members of the team, however, add depth beyond their apparent abilities, for the campaign is structured to mobilize political and professional connections that date back decades.

Topham, for instance, sat across the table from PacifiCorp during the merger with Utah Power & Light two years ago. PacifiCorp leaders were sufficiently impressed with his skill as a negotiator to put him on their payroll and delegate him to run the campaign to acquire PinWest.

Steinberg, who joined PacifiCorp twelve years ago as a long-range power planner, has risen to become a top corporate planning strategist and spokesman before regulatory agencies. Less obvious, but very helpful, are his connections at Southern California Edison, where he began his career.

SoCal Edison, which owns a piece of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, is the most vocal critic of APS' management of Palo Verde among participating utilities. Considering the source, the criticism carries more weight than routine venting. SoCal Edison has one of the best operating records in the nuclear power industry for plants under its management, and it's an open secret that PacifiCorp has talked to SoCal Edison about replacing APS as the Palo Verde plant manager, should the takeover succeed. "Those reports greatly overstated what had emerged from those discussions," Grosswiler demurs. "We expect to seek their input, as we would any of the participating utilities, to ensure Palo Verde runs more smoothly than in the past, but we have no plans to replace APS as manager. We recognize that the management contract is an important source of revenue for APS."

Grosswiler, PacifiCorp's chief in-house lobbyist, has equally useful credentials with another key special interest--the environmental movement. Prior to joining PacifiCorp six years ago, Grosswiler was executive director of the Mono Lake Committee, California's largest single-interest environmental group with 20,000 members. He now chairs the group, which is fighting to prevent Los Angeles from siphoning off water that feeds the unique, million-year-old lake.

Only in Arizona do utilities, APS to be specific, still operate as if they can steamroll environmental opposition. APS officials like to crow about the trouncing they gave environmentalists in the fight to build Palo Verde. But most other utilities in the region remember how the environmentalists, like Lilliputians going after Gulliver, fatally tied up plans to build the gigantic Kaiparowitts coal-fired power complex in southern Utah. In most states, Grosswiler notes, utilities now recognize they must do business with environmentalists if they are to do business at all.

Beginning last year, before a whisper of PacifiCorp's intentions became public, these men quietly began taking steps to surround their quarry. They hired Phoenix attorney Marvin Cohen, who has a long history of helping small communities break APS' monopoly on electric service, to help them maneuver over the regulatory hurdles controlled by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

And, acting on Cohen's advice, they hired former Democratic legislative boss Alfredo Gutierrez, now the state's most influential private political consultant, to usher them through a series of one-on-one meetings with the state's business, political and governmental elite.

Besides their respective technical expertise, both Cohen and Gutierrez provide PacifiCorp with particular access to leaders in the Democratic party, which currently controls the Arizona Corporation Commission, the governor's office and the mayoral seat in Phoenix. (Republicans still form a majority in the state legislature, but the party is so split by factionalism it's difficult to determine who, if anyone, calls the shots these days.)

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Kathleen Stanton