‘That is some brazen governmental hypocrisy on display,’ said Court Rich, Rose Law Group senior partner, and director of the Renewable Energy Department
Five candidates who want Salt River Project to use more solar energy received four cease-and-desist letters from SRP attorneys, reports Ryan Randazzo of The Arizona Republic.
Calling it “SRP Clean Energy,” the five created a website as part of their campaigns for the SRP board of directors, the vote for which is in April.
The attorney for the utility threatened them with legal action because they claimed, people would be confused about their affiliation with the public utility, The Republic reported.
Meanwhile, incumbent candidates who already serve on SRP’s board of directors have campaign websites and social-media profiles using phrases such as “SRP District 10,” and “Your SRP Team.”
The solar advocates say this shows they are being treated unfairly by the utility to keep them off the board.
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“I really don’t understand how a candidate for the SRP board of directors is supposed to run for the position without using the letters SRP,” Randy Miller, a software engineer running for the first time for the board, told The Republic.
Court Rich, Rose Law Group senior partner, and director of the Renewable Energy Department. He is not involved in the trademark dispute, but has challenged SRP’s rules and rates for solar customers in the past.
Rich told The Republic the decision from SRP to threaten action against some candidates but not others is questionable.
“That is some brazen governmental hypocrisy on display,” Rich said.
“What I find most troubling is that you have a governmental entity in SRP using its own government-funded lawyers to try and stifle those running to replace the current board members,” Rich said.
He said the candidates’ use of “SRP” is not a violation of the trademark.
“This is purely political speech, not commercial speech, and the First Amendment protects political speech above all else,” Rich said.
“The idea that a government lawyer would tell a candidate for public office that the candidate is prohibited from using the name of the governmental body in a political campaign is preposterous and the government lawyers writing these letters know this.”
SRP’s attorneys say they don’t want to interfere with the public election, and are only defending their trademark because they risk losing it if they don’t.
Elections for seven of 14 board seats are underway. April 3 is the last day to vote.