Former Corporation Commissioner Tom Forese spent four years in the regulatory body’s building on Jefferson Street. A little more than a year out of office, he’s returning to his old digs – this time as a lobbyist.
Corporation Commission records show that Forese, who served in the legislature prior to his one term as a utility regulator, registered as a lobbyist for Liberty Utilities on Feb. 25. The Avondale-based company provides regulated water, wastewater, natural gas, electricity and other utility services to more than 750,000 customers nationwide as a subsidiary of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.
Its work in Arizona consists of operating water systems across the state. Communities it serves include Avondale, Carefree, Glendale, Goodyear, Scottsdale and Sierra Vista.
Forese is representing Liberty Utilities through his consulting firm, Cato Consulting, which he formed in April 2019. His company isn’t representing any other regulated utilities or companies at the Corporation Commission, records show. He and his firm also aren’t registered to lobby the legislature or governor’s office, according to lobbying records kept by the secretary of state.
Forese did not return a message seeking comment.
Forese’s time as a commissioner was marred in many ways by his 2014 election, which he won with the help of millions of dollars in campaign spending by Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility, and its parent company, Pinnacle West. All told, the electric company funded more than $3.2 million in “dark money” campaign spending to boost Republican candidates Forese and Doug Little.
Forese and Little both also violated Arizona’s Clean Elections campaign finance laws during the 2014 election. Candidates who run publicly funded campaigns aren’t able to go into debt, but both campaigns did so on several occasions. The two Republicans avoided a Clean Elections Commission investigation into their campaign spending by admitting guilt and paying a fine.
Forese lost his re-election bid in 2018, finishing fourth in a five-person Republican primary election.