The conservative Goldwater Institute advocacy group in Phoenix has been a vocal critic of the 2009 federal stimulus package. So it’s got to be annoying for their lawyers to know that when they sit at their computers to write legal briefs on President Barack Obama’s failures, they do so with the help of energy-efficient lights paid for by the act.
The Republic wrote last week about a $25 million federal stimulus program called Energize Phoenix, which had mixed results. The money was used to provide energy-efficiency upgrades for homes and businesses along the Phoenix segment of the light rail.
The result is lots of energy and millions in annual energy-bill payments saved. But the city also gave $2.7 million to the opera and ballet buildings that represent an extremely low return on investment compared with other projects.
Many other buildings, such as the Clarendon Hotel and Spa in Phoenix, are saving money and will see a return on the federal money invested in about 1.3 years. Phoenix Newspapers Inc./Republic Media took a $40,000 grant from the program.
Surprisingly, among the hundreds of business grants listed in the city’s records was a $565 rebate for lighting at the Goldwater Institute’s offices. Officials from institute were surprised to learn from The Republic that the new lights in their office were paid for with stimulus funds.
In 2012, officials from Goldwater applied for a standard Arizona Public Service Co. rebate for lighting in their office, said Clint Bolick, the institute’s vice president for litigation. They expected the rebate to be from the utility.
Energize Phoenix was added to the existing APS rebate program. New lights were installed, and the institute received an invoice indicating the city of Phoenix paid Goldwater a $565 rebate. That money came from the Energize Phoenix program, even though Goldwater had not applied through the city.
APS officials said that when businesses in the light-rail corridor applied for rebates when the federal money was available, the customers were notified they qualified for additional rebates from Energize Phoenix.
APS officials said the Goldwater director of finance signed a data-release form authorizing APS to share customer billing information with both Arizona State University and the city of Phoenix as part of the project.
Goldwater officials said they never intended to take federal money, which they consider a waste.
“If this was part of a stimulus program, it illustrates one of the main reasons that such programs don’t work,” Bolick said. “The point is to stimulate economic activity that otherwise would not take place. We would have replaced the lights whether we received an APS rebate or not. If the city is claiming success for stimulating the local economy, that certainly wasn’t the case in our situation.”