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ASU Defends Solar Support, Donation

Arizona State University officials said they are strong supporters of solar despite a donation to a political group that attacked candidates supported by the rooftop solar industry. Photo credit: Mark Henle/The Republic

By Ryan Randazzo for The Arizona Republic

The non-profit that raises money for Arizona State University is defending the university’s support for solar energy in the wake of reports it donated to a political nonprofit that opposes rooftop solar.

The ASU Foundation accepted money from Arizona Public Service Co. in 2013 and the same year donated to a political group that helped defeat pro-solar candidates in last year’s elections.

The ASU Foundation accepted $181K from the non-profit APS Foundation and made a $100K donation to a political group called Save Our Future Now, which played heavily in the political campaigns last year for the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities.

The non-profit, investigative Sunlight Foundation in Washington, D.C., first reported the donations after combing public tax records from the non-profits.

ASU and APS officials have said the donations were unrelated and that the foundation donated to SOFN because it would help promote higher education.

But SOFN has become better known for its millions spent on political campaigns opposing candidates backed by the rooftop solar industry.

ASU Foundation sent an e-mail to alumni after the news broke to clarify its support for solar.

“To suggest that we are not supporters of solar energy is absurd,” the letter said. “ASU is a founding signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which requires immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s unclear if the political donation has affected donations to the foundation. It held a daylong fund-raising effort March 19, and 1,653 donors contributed more than $1.4M to the various colleges, according to preliminary results.

Read more at The Arizona Republic