Lobbying complaint filed against former Arizona lawmaker

A complaint has been filed against a former Arizona lawmaker who now runs a solar advocacy group alleging she “illegally” spoke against a bill further regulating solar panel sales.

The Market Freedom Alliance (MFA) filed the complaint on March 7, saying Lucy Mason was supposed to identify herself as the executive director of the Arizona chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association (AriSEIA) when she signed up to speak against a bill tightening regulations on solar cost savings claims. The complaint alleges that she signed in as “representing self.”

“Normally the regular type lobbyist, they know the rules,” state Senator Debbie Lesko (R-Dist. 21) told Arizona Business Daily. “So to be sneaky about it is a little disingenuous.”

Lesko, who said she was unaware of the complaint filed by the MFA, introduced SB 1417, the bill Mason testified against at a Feb. 6 Senate Water and Energy Committee meeting. Among other things, the recently enacted bill will require that solar leasing companies identify the formulas they use to calculate the amount of savings that could come from installing solar panels.

Lesko said some of these companies claim utility costs will rise as much as 7 percent year over year in order to justify their energy savings claims, despite recent numbers showing only a modest 1 or 2 percent climb.

Dan Whitten, vice president of communications for SEIA in Washington D.C., denied any coordination at the national level.

“SEIA doesn’t know anything about these allegations and plays no role in where AriSEIA officials testify,” Whitten told Arizona Business Daily in an email. “We will leave any response to these allegations to them.”

Mason did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment.

The former lawmaker did respond to the complaints filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. In a letter, she said she identified herself as the executive director of AriSEIA when immediately asked by Lesko at the start of the hearing. She argues that under Arizona state law, speaking before a public panel is not a form of lobbying.

“I was not aware, nor could I have possibly been aware, of any need to register as a lobbyist,” Mason wrote. “Indeed, the law does not require I register as a lobbyist.”

Jenna Bentley, executive director of MFA, argues that exceptions to the state’s lobbying rules do not apply to people employed in high-level positions for advocacy groups.

“Surely this exception was not introduced as a means to allow executive directors to lobby on behalf of their trade organization while avoiding registration and reporting obligations,” she wrote. “Such an interpretation would alleviate for lobbying statutes in the state at all.”

Mason previously served as a District 1 representative to the Arizona House from 2003 to 2011 as a Republican. She was hired by AriSEIA as it executive director in November 2015.

AriSEIA describes itself as the “driving force behind solar energy” and “building a strong solar industry to power America.” Its website includes a link to solar-estimate.org, which provide a form that claims to help estimate energy saving when installing solar systems.

Market Freedom Alliance is a 501(c)4 organization that describes it mission as promoting “the common good and general welfare of the people of Arizona.”

As of May 6, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan had not decided whether it would forward the complaint for investigation.

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