Thursday, September 29, 2022

Football great Brett Favre is the big name in Mississippi scandal, but the misuse of funds intended to feed needy children stretches in multiple directions


Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre has been seen as the central character in a welfare scandal that has rocked Mississippi politics. But Favre is not the only sports figure engulfed in the scandal, and it extends east toward Alabama to include Birmingham-based law firm Balch & Bingham, according to a report at banbalch.com.

Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, who also serves as CEO of the Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU) public charity and advocacy group:

Walter H. Boone, a Balch & Bingham partner in Mississippi, obviously outraged, tweeted about the latest corruption scandal involving football great Brett Favre, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and millions diverted from feeding hungry children to fund Favre’s pet project: a state-of-the-art volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter studies and plays…volleyball. (Breleigh Favre recently transferred to LSU.)

The “scheme to defraud the government” has rocked Mississippi and angered decent and  professional people like Boone. 

Mississippi Today broke the story about texts between then-Governor Phil Bryant and Favre in the scheme that diverted and allegedly laundered millions for welfare nutritional program resources to a not-for-profit entity called the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC). MCEC then funneled the money illegally to pet projects, like Favre’s Volleyball Stadium.

What about other sportsmen who join Favre in the muck? That includes a big name in wrestling -- Ted DiBiase Sr., known as "The Million Dollar Man" in his grappling days. From news reports last May:

Ted DiBiase and his sons Ted Jr. and Brett DiBiase have been sued by the state of Mississippi as the state seeks to reclaim $24 million dollars of misused federal funds meant for welfare. . . . The funds were meant to “address the multiple needs of inner-city youth” despite DiBiase Jr. possessing no qualifications to provide those services in relation to the federal grant called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

 Meanwhile Boone's outrage seems to be misguided. Writes Forbes:

Although Balch’s Boone appears to be outraged, the reality appears to be the House of Balch is divided. Working down the hall from Boone is Balch partner Lucien Smith, who was Governor Bryant’s former Chief of Staff and served as the Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party until he was ousted by current Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Bryant was seen as a Balch stooge at the time he served as Governor. Speaking of welfare, Balch & Bingham appears to live off of corporate welfare and contractual cronyism in Mississippi. According to the State of Mississippi, Balch has obtained over $27.8 million in 72 contracts. How much of Balch’s $27.8 million was obtained through cronyism and favoritism? Should there be a criminal forensic audit of Balch?

As for Boone, how might he alter his public statements? Forbes offers several suggestions:

Balch partner Boone has a right to be outraged at Favre for allegedly taking advantage of resources for poor, hungry children.

But Boone should also be outraged at his own firm, which targeted poor African American children in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal. He should be outraged that his firm refuses to apologize for former partner Joel I. Gilbert’s criminal misconduct. He should be outraged that Balch lost tens of millions in fees to win a $242,000 judgment in the Newsome Conspiracy Case. He should be outraged at the alleged criminal and unethical misconduct surrounding Balch and its sister-wife Alabama Power.

In the meantime, Favre should repay the State of Mississippi and make a heartfelt apology to the residents of the Magnolia State.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Matrix LLC reportedly was in the middle of deceptive efforts to promote Big Power, including Drummond Company, Alabama Power, and Balch & Bingham

"Environmentalists" protesting in a video that promotes Big Power.
 

In the summer of 2013, starting in Arizona,  "dark money" from non-profits began flowing into public-relations campaigns to promote the interests of large utility companies. At about the same time, such a campaign popped up in Alabama. 

According to a post yesterday at banbalch.com, the Alabama effort, featuring a video called Behind the Mask, was the work of the Matrix LLC consulting firm. And it appears to tie together some of Alabama's most powerful corporate and legal entities, writes Ban Balch Publisher K.B. Forbes:

The video from 2013 was originally a “smear and fear” piece but now it is irrefutable evidence that the Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Balch, and Drummond Company) appear to have utilized Matrix’s alleged dirty deeds,  actors, and questionable mouthpieces to attack perceived enemies. . . . 

Sources state the video was allegedly produced and created by Matrix, the obscure political consulting firm, on behalf of PACE, Partnership for Affordable Energy, an alleged AstroTurf entity that media called “in effect a subsidiary of Matrix.”

Behind the Mask made ample use of deception, reports Forbes. It's primary purpose apparently was to portray Big Power as being under attack. But what was really going on? While portions of the video seem to praise the work of environmentalists, the real purpose, it seems, was to target environmentalists -- and perhaps anyone  who might seek to hold Big Power accountable -- The video could have important evidentiary value as federal investigators reportedly examine the fallout from the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal and related events. Writes Forbes:

The alleged Matrix video called “Behind the Mask” is a wonderful piece of evidence that has Alabama Power attorneys, alleged Drummond agents, and Balch partners all tied together, arm-in-arm, in a chorus line.

And who were the targets of this high-end “smear and fear” production?

Nelson Brooke, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper who co-founded the tiny environmental group known as GASP, and the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Ironically, last month Brooke and the Southern Environmental Law Center SELC) won a major federal consent decree against Drummond Company.

What does the consent decree mean? Forbes quotes from an SELC press release that tells the tale:

In a major victory for the health of the lower Locust Fork and the Black Warrior River, a federal judge in Birmingham has granted the request by Black Warrior Riverkeeper to approve a consent decree requiring Drummond Company to clean up its abandoned Maxine Mine site. The approval was finalized after a May filing. The mine, which was the largest underground mine in the state, produced tons of coal per year after opening in the 1930s but has sat abandoned since operations stopped in the 1980s.

 How does deception play a role in Behind the Mask? Forbes cites several examples:

Alabama Power Chairman and CEO Mark A. Crosswhite’s most-trusted advisor, white-collar criminal defense attorney Mark White, is in the video talking about utility rates and the controversy surrounding the “return on equity” perspective.

Really? A criminal attorney spinning yarn about utility rates?

 Here is another oddity:

Catrena Norris Carter comes out as an alleged “outraged” board member of the League of Women Voters in Alabama, calling for more transparency regarding utility rates and billing. She has the foolish audacity to say on the video that it is “unfortunate that once again the poor and underprivileged get  preyed upon.”

 Perhaps the strangest oddity of all involves, of all things, face masks:

There is the group of fake environmental protestors, the actors and smear campaigns that we wrote about in 2018. These actors are all wearing face masks,  years before COVID-19 became a global pandemic, to obscure their identities.

The video scoffs at the fake environmentalists, with the narrator saying, “And then you have these people…”

These people were staged actors that were falsely but intentionally portrayed as environmental activists.

Where is all of this headed? It's likely too soon to say. But if investigations are about connecting the dots, this latest news seems to provide plenty of dots for examination.

(Note: You can view the Behind the Mask video by clicking on this link and scrolling to the end of the Ban Balch piece. The video is the last item and can be viewed by clicking on the arrow.)

Thursday, September 8, 2022

After his resignation from a federal judgeship, Abdul Kallon surfaces in Seattle -- a U.S. location that is about as far as possible from Alabama scandals

Abdul Kallon
 

A federal judge who resigned his lifetime position in the wake of long-running Alabama scandals, has landed -- in of all places -- Seattle, according to a report at banbalch.com. Under the headline "Sleepless in Seattle: Kallon Demotes Himself and joins Perkins Coie," Publisher K.B. Forbes writes:

Former Federal Judge Abdul K. Kallon has fled Birmingham and gone to one of the farthest places away from the cesspool of Jefferson County, Alabama: Seattle, Washington.

Kallon joins Perkins Coie as a partner, according to a news release.

In April, he announced his abrupt resignation; Kallon cited the usual “family time” excuse. According to media at the time, his wife obtained a job out of state but no one has been able to verify the fact.

As we asked in June:

Did Federal Judge Abdul K. Kallon agree to a secret deal to keep Alabama Power “unmentionable” during the North Birmingham Bribery Trial because of his past financial agreements and possible embarrassing personal behavior

On June 23rd, DonaldWatkins.com published an indepth report on Kallon’s alleged financial and personal behavior that was a bombshell, causing shockwaves in the legal community.

Watkins ties Kallon's resignation to the legal travails of Birmingham businessman Jonathan Dunning, who became the target of a federal criminal probe and wound up receiving an 18-year prison sentence. In Watkins' view, Dunning was railroaded, partly because Kallon and his former law firm, Bradley Arant, were deeply involved in Dunning's financial activities but mostly managed to escape scrutiny. 

Forbes picks up on a number of issues raised in the Watkins piece:

Did any or none of The Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Balch, and Drummond Company) have damaging information on Kallon and controlled him by figuratively squeezing his testicles?

Or was Kallon offered a deal in the alleged ongoing federal probe of obstruction of justice involving Alabama Power Chairman and CEO Mark A. Crosswhite?

Resign and cooperate sounds a lot better than refuse and be prosecuted.

Kallon may be sleepless in Seattle, having possibly tossed a future U.S. Supreme Court appointment down the toilet because of his alleged interactions with The Three Stooges.

Now he is far away. Farther away. Farthest away.

“Thanks be to God,” he says, he thinks, he prays.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Tiny CDLU, with its history of drawing attention from "60 Minutes" and Congress, may be set to spark a probe into a number of dark corners in Alabama


Congressional investigators reportedly are in the early stages of an inquiry into matters tied to the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal and what has become known as the Matrix Meltdown. If it turns into a full-blown probe, the primary driver will be a tiny public charity and advocacy group called Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU). And it will not be the first time CDLU has drawn the attention of Congress. In terms of journalism, you might call CDLU "The Little Engine That Could."

In fact, the group has engaged in such investigative work for about 20 years. At the forefront has been president and CEO K.B. Forbes, who also publishes the banbalch.com blog from his base in Birmingham. The CDLU Web site states: "Forbes authored nine investigative reports, spurred three Congressional hearings, and worked coast to coast to improve health care for all."

In short, Forbes and his work are well-known to Congressional insiders. Perhaps his most high-profile work involved a look at hospitals' price-gouging of the uninsured middle class. That story led to a segment on CBS' 60 Minutes, with Dan Rather interviewing Forbes.

Title of the 60 Minutes segment was "Hospitals: Is the Price Right?" From the 2006 piece:

Most Americans know that if you get sick enough to go to a hospital, it's going to be expensive. But you may be surprised to learn that hospitals all over the country charge their highest prices, by far, to those who can afford it least — the 46 million Americans who don't have health insurance.

Hospitals charge uninsured patients two, three, four or more times what an insurance company would pay for the same treatment. And, when the uninsured can't pay, they often find themselves the target of collection agencies or in bankruptcy court.

As for a Congressional probe that would focus on Birmingham, Forbes reports that Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite likely will be at the center of it

[Last week], we learned that U.S. Congressional investigators are beginning inquiries. Can this get any worse?

When Mark A. Crosswhite was appointed Chairman and CEO of Alabama Power in 2014, he told media he was pleased to be the final decision maker.

The multiple final decisions he has made appear to be a complete and utter cluster.

Instead of firing and distancing the utility from the alleged racist and embattled law firm Balch & Bingham after the criminal convictions in 2018, he embraced his former employer, subsidizing them with lucrative legal services.

Instead of terminating the Oompa Loompa of Alabama, Sloppy Joe Perkins, and his Matrix agents, after secret million-dollar contracts were exposed in December 2021, Crosswhite allegedly continues to generously fund the obscure political consulting firm, showing unwavering loyalty.

Mark White, Crosswhite’s most trusted advisor and a white-collar criminal attorney, was allegedly in utter panic [recently]. Sources claim his firm is having an anxiety attack over the alleged multiple criminal investigations caused by the Matrix Meltdown.

Now investigators are asking, was White the one who brokered the secret deal with disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town that kept Alabama Power “unmentionable ” during the North Birmingham Bribery Trial?

In a sense, a Birmingham-based probe could intersect with the most high-profile Congressional investigation in recent years. Writes Forbes:

Crosswhite allegedly made another catastrophic decision in 2020. During the 2019-2020 election cycle, the single largest contribution from Alabama Power Employees Federal PAC went to the Rule of Law Defense Fund, the entity that launched robocalls the day before the insurrection mob of January 6th that marched to and desecrated the U.S. Capitol.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Dueling two-state lawsuits over Montgomery-based Matrix LLC have settled, but fallout from North Birmingham Bribery Scandal might still be brewing


The two-state legal battle over Matrix LLC has settled, but fallout from the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal might be far from over.

That's from a report at banbalch.com. Under the headline "They're All Losers! Matrix Meltdown Settles; Criminal Probes Heat Up," Publisher K.B. Forbes writes:

The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.

The Matrix Meltdown is over in civil court according to a court filing yesterday afternoon.

The Matrix Meltdown was an embarrassing fight that spilled raw sewage and, the alleged criminal and unethical behind-the-scenes details of the obscure political consulting firm and their agents.

The explosive deposition with Jittery Jeff won’t happen.

The civil war between Sloppy Joe Perkins and his once-protégé Jittery Jeff Pitts may be over for now and the Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Balch, and Drummond) can breathe a momentary sigh of relief. But the irreparable damage is done.

What could be on the horizon? Forbes goes down the list:

The criminal probes related to the Matrix Meltdown are only heating up.

Florida investigators allegedly are working with federal authorities on possible civil rights and money laundering violations involving ghost candidates, tax-exempt entities, and intentional voter confusion and suppression efforts.

At the same time, federal investigators are allegedly looking at the secret million dollar contracts given to Sloppy Joe by Alabama Power that do not require an invoice.

The U.S. Department of Justice is allegedly probing the 18 tax-exempt entities that laundered over $50 million that Sloppy Joe outlined in a now deleted post on yellowhammernews.com.

And they’re all losers because of this fight that caught them with their panties down.

Who might be the biggest loser at the moment? Forbes awards that title to Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite:

[Crosswhite] may have forced [Perkins] to settle after embarrassing allegations were published that Crosswhite allegedly spied on his boss and his then-girlfriend.

But the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal isn’t over. The rebirth is alive. And Crosswhite knows it.

As we correctly stated, national media are digging deep into Alabama and North Birmingham with a lengthy exposé published just this morning by Propublica.org.

David Roberson’s $75-million civil lawsuit continues in the dark, in a secret Star Chamber.

And federal investigators are allegedly looking into obstruction of justice allegations involving Alabama Power and Crosswhite during the North Birmingham Bribery Trial, where Alabama Power was “unmentionable. . . .”

Crosswhite’s problems appear to have expanded exponentially because of those closest to him.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

In a rarity, U.S. Judge Abdul Kallon officially gives up lifetime post as punches keep coming for those caught in fallout from North Birmingham Bribery Scandal

Abdul Kallon (From al.com)




Abdul Kallon officially stepped down yesterday from his lifetime appointment as a U.S. judge in the Northern District of Alabama, according to a post at banbalch.com. Federal judges hardly ever give up a lifetime post that brings prestige, power, perks, and the possibility of higher office. But Kallon did just that, reports Ban Balch Publisher K.B. Forbes, who also serves as CEO of the Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU) public charity and advocacy group. Writes Forbes:

The stench from the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal still stinks and those involved are dropping like flies. The carcasses are piling up.

Presiding Judge Abdul K. Kallon officially resigns today citing the usual stock-in-trade b.s. excuse of “spending more time with family.”

Forbes has been keeping track of those who have taken a hit in the scandal, and his scorecard must be filling up:

Disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town was forced to resign and fled in the middle of the night after inappropriate photos of him drinking libations with the embattled CEO of Alabama Power Mark A. Crosswhite were published. Town, too, left to “spend more time with family.”

Two Assistant U.S. Attorneys allegedly turned in their resignations in April, a day after Kallon announced his resignation.

Mike Tracy, CEO of Drummond Company, abruptly retired a year after the trial. Tracy was facing criticism for firing ex-Drummond executive David Roberson and ending Drummond’s funding of Roberson’s favorite charity, an organization that helps children with autism, six-months after Roberson was found guilty.

William “Bo” Lineberry, the Balch partner who set up the money laundering entity in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal known as the Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE), committed suicide days after Kallon’s retirement announcement.

The fallout at Balch has come in several forms:

Balch & Bingham, Alabama Power’s sister-wife, appears to have lost millions of dollars in fees as money-making partners exit the firm and clients terminate the embattled firm.

Forbes finishes out the scorecard -- as it exists for now:

Trey Glenn was forced to resign as an EPA Administrator after being exposed as a Balch stooge.

Matrix, which dropped a reprehensible mailer that discouraged poor African-American residents from having their toxic and contaminated property tested by the EPA, appears to have collapsed. Matrix founder Sloppy Joe Perkins is involved in a horrific and ugly legal fight with once-protégé Jittery Jeff Pitts, exposing dark if not criminal secrets.

Alabama Power’s CEO Mark A. Crosswhite allegedly spied on his boss and his boss’ then-girlfriend. With baggage accumulating, Crosswhite is allegedly on his way out and sources claim he is under federal investigation for alleged obstruction of justice.

With ex-Drummond executive David Roberson and Ex-Balch partner Joel I. Gilbert sitting in the federal big house, how many more could join them?

Will Southern Company step in and mop up this mess or is it too late?

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Alabama Power's Mark Crosswhite would be expected to seek advice from an electrical engeineer, but a criminal defense lawyer as advisor seems out of place

 

It might seem strange that one of the most trusted advisors to Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite -- long considered a powerful force in the state -- is criminal defense attorney Mark White. But the most accurate explanation might be a simple one, according to a report from banbalch.com Publisher K.B. Forbes, who doubles as CEO of the Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU) public charity and advocacy group. Writes Forbes:

Mark A. Crosswhite, the former Balch & Bingham partner and current embattled Chairman and CEO of Alabama Power, has a curiosity.

His most trusted advisor appears to be white-collar criminal attorney Mark White of White, Arnold & Dowd. . . . 

What kind of CEO would put his fate in the hands of a white-collar criminal attorney?

A CEO of an electric utility would understandably have a seasoned electrical engineer, environmental resources consultant, or marketing person near his ear. Even a governmental affairs person would be a valuable advisor.

But why a white-collar criminal attorney?

Forbes points to evidence that White seems to have a keen interest when a court case has any possible tie to Alabama Power:

During the North Birmingham Bribery Trial, according to court observers, White was allegedly at the proceedings every day.

Before the [David] Roberson case was sealed, White was allegedly in court listening to every legal argument and motion.

We, the CDLU, even bumped into him outside the Jefferson County Courthouse after attending a heated hearing in Roberson’s $75-million civil lawsuit, before the secret Star Chamber was enacted and before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. White was chattering away on his cell phone, waiting for the street light to change.

Is it possible Crosswhite has danced a little too close to the fire at times, and White is trying to keep his friend from getting burned? That could be the case, Forbes reports:

Is the alleged misconduct surrounding Alabama Power and Mark A. Crosswhite too close to the edge or have they crossed the line?

With the Matrix Meltdown, the alleged unethical, immoral misconduct by Sloppy Joe Perkins and Jittery Jeff Pitts has spilled wide open.

Will the spilled sewage overwhelm Crosswhite?

When the story broke about Crosswhite and Alabama Power having allegedly spied on and conducted surveillance of his boss Tom Fanning and his then-girlfriend, Alabama Power (through a Southern Company spokesperson) denied it.

But then again federal investigators believe there are plenty of liars associated with Alabama Power who twist the truth like taffy.

Not surprisingly, Mark White has been busy lately. Writes Forbes:

Recently, Mark White filed court documents trying to quash Jittery Jeff’s subpoena of Alabama Power and all documents related to Sloppy Joe and Matrix. The panic has just begun.

The curiosity of having a white-collar criminal attorney as a trusted advisor is not so strange as it is telling.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Race-based controversy revisits Vincent, Alabama, and the town of about 2,000 residents, near Birmingham, takes a firm stance by disbanding its police force

A public forum in Vincent, Alabama (CNN)
 

The small town of Vincent, Alabama, has made national news by disbanding its police department after an officer's racist text appeared on social media. It's not the first time the Shelby County community of about 2,000 -- a 45-minute drive south of Birmingham -- has taken firm and united action when a racially charged controversy arose in its midst. That's from a post at the banbalch.com blog. 

Publisher K.B. Forbes, CEO of the Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU) public charity and advocacy group, notes that the earlier issue, which became known as the Vincent Land Grab, began about a decade ago and reached a peak in 2020. It involved the Big Law firm of Balch & Bingham, and Forbes draws parallels between the two controversies:

Two years ago today, Balch political stooges who supported the alleged whites-only land grab in Vincent, Alabama, were humiliated and defeated in a landslide election  when white and African-American voters united.

Now, this month, Vincent united again and reaffirmed a solid stand against the alleged racism that Balch appeared to have openly embraced a decade ago.

From an NPR report about the police department: 

An Alabama police department was disbanded last week after a racist text message sent by one of its three officers surfaced on social media.

The police chief and the assistant police chief were suspended, city of Vincent Mayor James Latimer confirmed to NPR. Then, the city council voted to dissolve the entire department — a move the mayor is calling “a reversible decision.” The remaining officer subsequently resigned, Latimer said.

The city will be relying on the greater Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to respond to emergency calls during the span of a year, according to the mayor.

 Vincent is about a 45-minute drive from Birmingham. Less than 2,000 residents live there, 85% of whom are white and 12% of whom are Black. Forbes notes that the text in question was about slavery, and that turns his attention to the Vincent Land Grab:

                  As we wrote in 2018:

The CDLU met with residents of Vincent, Alabama who allege adamantly that Balch & Bingham lawyers (and their public relations stooges) spearheaded the strategic purchase of farm land and the fast-as-lightening re-zoning of said land,  and oversaw the lucrative transactions for a client called White Rock Quarries, starting almost a decade ago.

The outrage they allege is that only white land owners were approached for land purchases while African-Americans were not; worse, many of these African-Americans were older, senior citizens, descendants of slaves.

The quarry company allegedly considered moving historic slave graves according to local news reports.

The quarry project wound up being shut down. Now, the police department has learned that residents of Vincent, Alabama, take matters of race seriously.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Mark Crosswhite's grip as CEO of Alabama Power is shaking after years of devotion to Balch & Bingham and Matrix LLC appear now to be an albatross

Mark Crosswhite

Mark Crosswhite's allegiance to the Balch & Bingham law firm and the Matrix LLC consulting firm has become a liability as his tenure as the head of Alabama Power appears to be teetering, according to a report at banbalch.com. Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, from his base as CEO of the Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU) public charity and advocacy group:

Mark A. Crosswhite, the former Balch partner and current CEO of Alabama Power, is burnt toast and sources involved in the energy sector are whispering that Crosswhite is definitely out.

Crosswhite’s departure is expected to be announced after Federal Judge Abdul K. Kallon  officially steps down next week.

Other business leaders are saying Crosswhite is done career-wise because of the alleged spying and surveillance scandal in 2017 of his boss, Tom Fanning, and his then-girlfriend.

Does Crosswhite find himself caught in a web of complex financial and political maneuvering? That appears to be the case, Forbes reports:

While Southern Company has attempted (like Florida Power and Light) to say they did not pay for or direct the alleged nefarious misconduct allegedly involving Matrix and related entities and individuals, the reality is the money laundering and smoke-and-mirrors schemes are hidden behind attorney-client agreements and third-party pay-through entities.

Remember, the $360,000 in bribes to ex-State Rep. Oliver Robinson during the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal were laundered through the entity Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE), a Balch-created entity.

Has Southern Company audited or verified every expenditure made to Balch & Bingham? How about each and every invoice paid to Crosswhite’s pal and white-collar attorney Mark White at White, Arnold & Dowd?

How should Southern Company move forward? Forbes offers a suggestion:

Better yet, Southern Company should demand invoices and conduct a line by line forensic audit of the millions paid to Sloppy Joe Perkins and his related entities. The secret contracts between Sloppy Joe and Alabama Power did not require invoicing, a stunning revelation for a publicly-traded company.

Sloppy Joe revealed in June that 18 tax-exempt entities laundered over $50 million. How much of that, if any, came from Alabama Power?

Tom Fanning may not want to turn a stone as he prepares to retire, but federal investigators have the capacity to do so.

The bottom line is Crosswhite is done, burnt toast because of his million-dollar religious devotion to Balch and Matrix, both of which have become enormous liabilities.

After Crosswhite departs, Alabama Power must terminate Balch and Matrix and clean out the rusty septic tank.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Will surveillance of Tom Fanning, head of Southern Company, lead to the downfall of the empire that Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite has built?

Mark Crosswhite (right) and Jay Town
 

What fallout might Alabama Power (APCO) executives face in the wake of reports about surveillance of Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company, the power company's parent firm? Publisher K.B. Forbes addresses that question -- especially as it pertains to APCO CEO Mark Crosswhite -- in a post at banbalch.com. You might say it creates "bad optics" for Crosswhite. Writes Forbes:

The allegation that Alabama Power Chairman and CEO Mark A. Crosswhite authorized the spying on and surveillance of Tom Fanning, the Chairman and CEO of Alabama Power’s parent company, Southern Company, and Fanning’s then-girlfriend has rocked the utility sector.

Although Southern Company is attempting public relations damage control to prevent further fallout, the facts speak for themselves and Crosswhite appears to have made a mockery of Southern Company.

For decades, Alabama Power has run uncontrolled.

What kind of environment has that created at Alabama Power? It appears to have led to some hot water:

Crosswhite, a former Balch & Bingham partner, has funneled millions of dollars to the embattled and alleged racist law firm, subsidizing the firm. The firm has lost millions as money-making partners leave and numerous clients dump the firm.

He appears to have directed millions a year in secret contracts to the Oompa Loompa of Alabama, “Sloppy Joe” Perkins and his affiliated companies with no invoicing needed. Perkins and friends are accused of engaging in alleged unsavory if not criminal misconduct.

While Perkins is in a heated fight with his once-protégé Jittery Jeff Pitts, criminal investigators are looking at election violations, money laundering, and abuse of bogus tax-exempt entities among other matters tied to the Matrix Meltdown.

The Perkins-Pitts legal battle could lead to more unsavory revelations about Big Power in Alabama:

Although Alabama Power was unmentionable during the North Birmingham Bribery Trial, the jaw-dropping photos of Crosswhite chugging cocktails with U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town allegedly at the height of the criminal trial appear to confirm a secret deal was cut.

Crosswhite’s downfall appears to be a culmination of uncontrolled hubris, unlimited arrogance, and the need to be in absolute power.

Last week, we asked: Did Crosswhite find out if his boss Tom Fanning wears boxers or tighty whities?

Now, today we present a possible answer and another satirical cartoon addressing Crosswhite’s surveillance scandal. Click here to download image.


Friday, August 12, 2022

As U.S. Judge Abdul Kallon prepares to step down from his lifetime post, Matrix LLC and its allies seem to be creating a living purgatory in Alabama

Abdul Kallon

U.S. Judge Abdul Kallon, an Obama appointee, is about to step down from his lifetime position -- a move so unusual, almost unheard of -- that it raises this otherworldly question: Are Matrix LLC and its allies creating a peculiar kind of purgatory in Alabama?

That's a heavy idea straight out of Roman Catholic doctrine, and Publisher K.B. Forbes explains in a post at banbalch.com why it seems to apply in "The Heart of Dixie." Writes Forbes:

When the news story broke in June that Matrix agents allegedly spied on a journalist in Florida, our first reaction was, what’s the big deal? This is nothing compared to what happens in Alabama.

Less than three weeks from today, Federal District Judge Abdul K. Kallon will step down.

The presiding judge of the North Birmingham Bribery Trial appears to be another carcass in the long history of “use, abuse, and dispose of” mentality of Alabama powerbrokers.

Kallon will join the elite ranks of disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, former U.S. Senator Luther Strange, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, disgraced ex-EPA administrator Trey Glenn, ex-Probate Judge Alan L. King, ex-State Representative Oliver Robinson, along with numerous other carcasses of agents and stooges that have stacked up over the past five years for having allegedly danced tango with one or more of the Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Balch and Drummond).

Like the slasher movie franchise Friday the 13th, how many more idiots will drive up to Crystal Lake just to be murdered? How many more idiots will “bow down and kiss the ring” of one or more of the Three Stooges just to eventually be turned into burnt toast?

Forbes has reason to be in touch with such issues. His public charity and advocacy group, CDLU (Consejo De Latinos Unidos) has been in touch with officials at the highest level of the U.S. Department of Justice as the "Matrix Meltdown" has grown in the press to include recent coverage by The Guardian and al.com

How does this tie to the political consulting firm Matrix LLC and its allies? Forbes explains, giving special attention to Matrix founder Joe Perkins:

“Sloppy Joe” Perkins created a living purgatory when he published a rambling statement on yellowhammernews.com in late June outlining a criminal enterprise involving 18 tax-exempt entities that allegedly laundered over $50 million, only to have it deleted 8 days later

Then the bombshell revelation exploded last week that Alabama Power executives were spying on Southern Company CEO and Chairman Tom Fanning and his then-girlfriend.

Alabama Power denied the allegation, but why would the esteemed attorneys for “Jittery Jeff” Pitts, Perkins’ ex-CEO and once-protégé, put that in a pleading?

Sources tell us that Pitts allegedly has irrefutable and rock solid evidence of Alabama Power Chairman and CEO Mark A. Crosswhite’s alleged involvement in the surveillance of Fanning who is to retire this year.

The Fanning story almost was as stunning as Kallon's resignation, and details appear in Jefferson County court documents, writes Forbes: 

AL.com reported more details of the surveillance:

The listed “target” of the surveillance was Kimberly Tanaka, a fitness club owner and then-girlfriend of Fanning, but private investigator Derek Uman surveilled Tanaka and Fanning at her work and at his home.

Tanaka said she was in a serious and public relationship with Fanning that ended abruptly in 2017. She was unaware of the surveillance until recently.

“This was all news to me and I still don’t know why,” she told AL.com…. “It’s a little unnerving.”

She said she had no idea why anyone would think following her would put pressure on Fanning.

Uman, founder of Clear Capture Investigations of Gainesville, Fla., staked out Fanning’s Atlanta home and photographed him running on a wooded hill on a cul-de-sac leading to his secluded house. Uman followed and videoed Tanaka, gathered photos and billed then-Matrix CEO Pitts $6,881.55 for surveillance, travel, meals and more. 

Unbelievable!

So if true, did Crosswhite find out if his boss Tom Fanning wears boxers or tighty whities? Did the surveillance cause the relationship in any way “to end abruptly?” 

This brings us back to the North Birmingham Bribery Trial, over which Abdul Kallon presided:

Although the media has not mentioned this, the spying on Fanning occurred in 2017,  at the time of the  anticipated and eventual indictments in the North Birmingham Bribery Trial. Was Crosswhite concerned Fanning was going to cooperate with federal authorities? 

Perkins’ Purgatory could also  seriously impact Drummond Company and their “confused” general counsel Blake Andrews. 

What revelations does Pitts know about the coal company?

Will Pitts’ deposition in the Matrix Meltdown bring to light secret operations, an orchestrated campaign, and the alleged set-up of “Fall Guy” and ex-Drummond executive David Roberson?

All this to consider as federal investigators quietly probe the alleged misconduct stirred by “Sloppy Joe’s” big mouth, big ego, and big mistake.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Chris Blevins, the Alabama deputy who beat and pepper sprayed me in our home and hauled me to a five-month stay in jail for blogging, has died at age 48

Chris Blevins

 

The Alabama deputy who beat and pepper sprayed me inside our own home -- and helped cause me to spend "five months in jail for blogging" -- has died.

Chris Blevins  died on July 25, 2022, at age 48. From his obituary:

After graduating from Erwin High School, [Chris] went on to graduate from the Birmingham Police Academy in 1996 where he remained until 1999. That year he joined the Shelby County Sheriff’s office where he worked as a Field Training Officer and on the Tactical Response Unit. Chris received the Medal of Valor in 2005 for his actions in attempting to save a drowning person who was fleeing apprehension. He was known for his calm demeanor even during times of tremendous stress and would receive numerous commendations over his 26 years as a law enforcement officer. In 2015 he was awarded Officer of the Year. 

Blevins was good at his job, and his survivors include a wife and two daughters.

Blevins looked like a strong fellow, and I can confirm that he was powerful. It's always sad when someone dies too young, perhaps unexpectedly. I've tried not to hold ill will toward Blevins. I'm not sure I've always been successful on that front, but I suspect his actions in our home come under the heading of "following orders from someone above." I doubt Blevins ever made another arrest like mine in his career.

The order giver should have known that such an arrest was unlawful, per Payton v. New York (U.S. Sup. Ct., 1980). And it put Alabama on par with Russia, Uganda, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other rogue states when it comes to arresting journalists. I'm sure it wasn't part of Blevins' duty to make determinations on such legal issues, so it's probably fair to say he was just doing his job.

In his obit, I could not help but notice that Blevins was an animal lover -- with one dog and three cats. Mrs. Schnauzer and I have had one dog and three cats over the years.

In our brief time together, I wish Blevins and I could have spent time swapping stories about our pets. That's not the way it worked out, but I'm sorry to learn of his passing. Our sympathies go out to his family and friends, including his four-legged friends.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Have Matrix LLC operatives engaged in behind-the-scenes machinations to manipulate Alabama court cases and deprive certain litigants of justice?

Scene of the Burt Newsome car crash
 

Documents revealed last week in Birmingham raise these troubling questions:

* Have representatives of the Matrix LLC consulting firm attempted to manipulate court cases in Alabama?

* If so, have serious crimes been committed and justice tarnished in "The Heart of Dixie" -- and perhaps, beyond?

The documents were filed on behalf of former Matrix CEO Jeff Pitts, who is suing founder Joe Perkins. For good measure, Perkins is suing Pitts.

Publisher K.B. Forbes addresses the issues in a post at banbalch.com. Writes Forbes:

In “Jittery Jeff” Pitts’ court filing [last] week, he outlines alleged misconduct by Matrix’s founder “Sloppy Joe” Perkins, including allegedly setting up phony groups and digital websites to intimidate individuals while influencing litigation.

Is Pitts referring to the North Birmingham Bribery Trial, David Roberson’s $75-million lawsuit, or the Newsome Conspiracy Case? Or all three?

All three litigated cases involve alleged criminal obstruction of justice.

Alabama Power and its sister-wife Balch & Bingham were involved in all three cases, two of which were sealed in their entirety, creating secret Star Chambers where no public information is available.

The Pitts revelations, Forbes note, shine unflattering light on Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite and Jay Town, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama:

Alabama Power was “unmentionable” during the North Birmingham Bribery Trial and ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town allegedly let this travesty of justice occur.

More than 20 other Balch attorneys were allegedly involved in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal and numerous Alabama Power executives were briefed regularly on the developments.

Now people are asking, was Town’s “lone wolves” theory a Matrix creation

The Newsome case was disturbing in a number of ways. Court documents indicate it was an effort by Balch & Bingham to claim a chunk of Burt Newsome's banking practice. Newsome is a solo practitioner who appears to be no competitive threat to a firm the size of Balch. Writes Forbes:

Was Matrix involved in any way with the Newsome Conspiracy Case, as Sloppy Joe’s daughter claims?

Balch used all its political might and a counterfeit order to “beat” Newsome. In the end, Balch won a $242,000 judgment while losing tens of millions (if not $100 million) in client fees and lobbying fees, while legacy partners left in droves.

The Roberson matter grew out of of the North Birmingham quagmire. Forbes writes:

In Roberson’s civil case, Balch, Drummond Company, and Alabama Power panicked and vigorously sought protective orders. The case was sealed. While no information is available on the case or proceedings, David Roberson appears to have been set up as a “fall guy.” His lawyer, Burt Newsome of the Newsome Conspiracy Case, was hit head-on in a 2020 vehicle crash and his law firm’s bank checkbook was stolen in the middle of the night.

What to make of all this? Do Alabamians have a right to expect honest courts? Have some litigants been deprived of justice? Will the ugliness apparently tied to certain court cases ever end? Will Jeff Pitts' testimony help provide answers? Writes Forbes:

The tactics have utterly failed, and actually appear to have backfired.

As federal investigators probe these allegations of criminal obstruction of justice and the abuse of the judicial system in Alabama , the curiosity of what explosive developments could come to light during Jeff Pitts’ deposition becomes even more interesting.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Stunning revelations about surveillance of Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning leave a pile of unanswered questions in court battle over Matrix LLC

Tom Fanning
 

Why would Matrix LLC conduct surveillance of Tom Fanning,  CEO of Southern Company -- the parent firm of Alabama Power, one of Matrix's own clients? Perhaps of even more interest, what is Fanning going to do about it?

Those two questions are hanging in the air after a report this week from al.com about the dueling lawsuits -- in Florida and Alabama -- involving former Matrix CEO Jeff Pitts and the firm's founder, Joe Perkins. Court documents do seem to answer this question: Why did Pitts leave Matrix in the first place? More on that in a moment.

As for the stunning revelations about the surveillance of Fanning and his associates, al.com's John Archibald and Kyle Whitmire write:

The political consulting firm Matrix LLC has long gathered intelligence for powerful politicians and corporate interests in Alabama, and in the process nurtured a fearsome reputation.

In its work, Matrix or its employees have surveilled environmentalists and journalists, smeared politicians and manufactured protests — to the benefit of its clients, including Alabama Power Co.

In 2017, however, it did more than look outward to potential threats. It looked upward, at Alabama Power’s parent, Southern Company and its CEO.

What will Fanning do about the intrusions into his life? Publisher K.B. Forbes has thoughts about that at the blog banbalch.com. First, he refers to a post he wrote last October:

Rumors are flying that Southern Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning is retiring next year.

And Alabama Power CEO and Chairman Mark A. Crosswhite is allegedly telling bourgeois insiders that he has the lock and key to the C-Suite at Southern Company, Alabama Power’s parent company.

Crosswhite is unfit to serve.

He worked as a top partner for alleged racist and embattled law firm Balch & Bingham before taking the revolving door to Alabama Power.

Instead of distancing himself from Balch, Crosswhite appears to be embracing his former employer, even allegedly subsidizing the firm with lucrative business as Balch is hemorrhaging from alleged unsavory and criminal scandals engulfing the 99 year-old firm.

Now unsubstantiated rumors say Alabama Power and unknown related entities have indemnified Balch and others for their alleged criminal, racist, and egregious misconduct.

Hiding behind non-disclosure agreements and now allegedly million-dollar indemnity deals, the Crosswhite scandal smells like raw sewage.

Forbes then offers his assessment of what Fanning should do

Now, before federal investigators come knocking, Fanning needs to make some tough executive decisions and

  1. Fire Crosswhite.
  2. Disengage Matrix and “Sloppy Joe” Perkins.
  3. Terminate Balch and Bingham.

Forbes also offers insight, taken directly from court pleadings, into the reasons behind Pitts' departure at Matrix:

Getting back to Pitts, we believe strongly now that he resigned after decades of service to “Sloppy Joe” Perkins because he saw alleged criminal misconduct. His mentor was letting him take over, but instead Pitts left, because, as his court pleading states, he saw “inappropriate and unethical business practices.”

Now Pitts could be planing to sing about “high crimes and misdemeanors” at his deposition with Perkins’ lawyers.

Are the Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Drummond, and Balch) vulnerable?

As for the Fanning surveillance, it centered around a former girlfriend. From al.com

The listed “target” of the surveillance was Kimberly Tanaka, a fitness club owner and then-girlfriend of Fanning, but private investigator Derek Uman surveilled Tanaka and Fanning at her work and at his home.

Tanaka said she was in a serious and public relationship with Fanning that ended abruptly in 2017. She was unaware of the surveillance until recently.

“This was all news to me and I still don’t know why,” she told AL.com on Sunday. “It’s a little unnerving.”

She said she had no idea why anyone would think following her would put pressure on Fanning.

Uman, founder of Clear Capture Investigations of Gainesville, Fla., staked out Fanning’s Atlanta home and photographed him running on a wooded hill on a cul-de-sac leading to his secluded house. Uman followed and videoed Tanaka, gathered photos and billed then-Matrix CEO Pitts $6,881.55 for surveillance, travel, meals and more. Uman addressed the invoice to Pitts.

Uman, who said he has done lots of work for Matrix, refused to talk about the content of his investigation, saying that would be illegal. He did confirm the authenticity of the report, and said the invoice “was paid with a Matrix check that was signed by Joe Perkins.”

Asked about the Fanning spying, Perkins pointed in Pitts' direction. Pitts responded by pointing at Perkins:

In an interview with AL.com on Monday morning, Perkins emphatically denied he had anything to do with the surveillance of Fanning and blamed the spying on former “rogue” employees, including Pitts.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) asks Attorney General Merrick Garland for a federal probe of possible corruption involving utilities tied to Matrix LLC

Kathy Castor
 

A member of Congress is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate possible corruption connected to Montgomery, AL-based consulting firm Matrix LLC, according to a report from ban.balch.com:

U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor dispatched a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland yesterday demanding a probe of Alabama Power’s alleged go-to political fixer, Matrix, the obscure political consulting firm engaged in alleged influence peddling and alleged criminal acts.

Citing an article from Wink News, which is based in the Fort Meyers, FL, area, Ban Balch publisher K.B. Forbes reports:

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) said in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday that recent press reports in Florida had “exposed apparent corruption, influence peddling and breaches of the public trust by Florida’s largest electric utility Florida Power & Light and its officers.”

“Numerous public corruption scandals involving electric utilities across the country have resulted in federal public corruption criminal and civil probes, and it appears that such oversight is needed in Florida now,” the letter said.

Her letter comes on the heels of our direct contact with federal investigators about Matrix’s alleged criminal misconduct involving 18 tax-exempt entities and more than $50 million in money laundering.

This might seem like a Florida story, but it has deep roots in Alabama. Writes Forbes:

Although Florida Power & Light has terminated its contracts with entities and individuals tied to the Matrix Meltdown, Alabama Power  allegedly is STILL paying Matrix and Matrix founder “Sloppy Joe” Perkins  more than $2 million a year without the need for invoicing.

Although news reporting has been focused primarily on Florida, reliable sources tell us there are numerous investigative efforts now looking at Alabama and the Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Drummond, and Balch & Bingham).

With ex-Matrix CEO “Jittery Jeff” Pitts’ deposition ready to pry the filthy treasure chest of alleged dirty deeds wide open, the Congresswoman’s letter has caught the perfect wave.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Depositions and subpoenas, following Guardian article, heighten the intrigue surrounding court battle in Alabama and Florida over Matrix LLC

Joe Perkins

Last week's explosive article in The Guardian drew national attention to the ongoing legal battle between Joe Perkins, founder of Montgomery, AL-based Matrix LLC, and the firm's former CEO, Jeff Pitts. New legal issues are making the already fiery story even hotter, according to a report at banbalch.com.

Perkins' attorneys have scheduled a Pitts deposition. But Pitts is striking back, writes Publisher K.B. Forbes:

Pitts dropped a double whammy on Friday: his legal team subpoenaed both Alabama Power and Southern Company for documents and files all related to “Sloppy Joe”(Perkins) and Matrix from at least 2015 through 2020. 

That raises all kinds of questions, and Forbes spells them out:

Are Matrix’s alleged dirty deeds and alleged criminal acts ready to be exposed?

Will Pitts’ attorneys hand over damaging information to the feds?

Will executives, goons, and thugs of the Three Stooges (Balch, Drummond, and Alabama Power) rush to cooperate with federal investigators?

Keeping Alabama Power “unmentionable” during the North Birmingham Bribery Trial is nothing compared to what looks like a network of paid consultants, stooges and actors that appear to intimidate critics and engage in truly unsavory acts.

Will “Jittery Jeff” (Pitts) expose the worst of the alleged dirty deeds?

 Forbes lists a few unsavory acts that might draw scrutiny:

This is no longer a laughing matter.

The stakes are extremely high.

Forbes then provides a wide-angle view of the issues at hand:

Mark A. Crosswhite of Alabama Power, Blake Andrews of Drummond, and the leadership at Balch have much to worry about.

And as we mentioned in April, journalists and federal investigators are zeroing in. The Guardian stories appear to be part of that broad effort.

“Jittery Jeff ” didn’t simply walk away from a long-term mentor. He may have seen some alleged unethical or criminal acts he probably didn’t approve of or like.

And now Pitts’ deposition will open everyone’s eyes to how far Matrix and “Sloppy Joe” allegedly pushed the envelope on behalf of the Three Stooges.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

As America simmers under a blistering heat wave, Alabama-based Matrix LLC leads a multi-state attack on clean-energy efforts to address climate change

 

U.S. power companies are secretly spending millions to protect profits and fight clean energy, according to a report from The Guardian. The story has strong connections to Alabama and Florida, with Montgomery-based consulting firm Matrix LLC in the middle of the intrigue. Alabama Power also makes an appearnce. As The Guardian states in a sub-headline: "One industry consulting firm has influenced politics across Florida, Alabama and at least six other states." That is a reference to Matrix. Here are details:

The CEO of the biggest power company in the US had a problem. A Democratic state senator was proposing a law that could cut into Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) profits. Landlords would be able to sell cheap rooftop solar power directly to their tenants – bypassing FPL and its monopoly on electricity.

“I want you to make his life a living hell … seriously,” FPL’s CEO Eric Silagy wrote in a 2019 email to two of his vice-presidents about state Senator José Javier Rodríguez, who proposed the legislation.

“I want you to make his life a living hell … seriously,” FPL’s CEO Eric Silagy wrote in a 2019 email to two of his vice-presidents about state Senator José Javier Rodríguez, who proposed the legislation.

Within minutes, one of them forwarded the directive to the CEO of Matrix, LLC, a powerful but little-known political consulting firm that has operated behind the scenes in at least eight states.

Rodríguez was ousted from office in the next election. Matrix employees spent heavily on political advertisements for a candidate with the same last name as Rodríguez, who split the vote. That candidate later admitted he was bribed to run.

Hundreds of pages of internal documents – which are only coming to light now because Matrix’s founders are locked in an epic feud – detail the firm’s secret work to help power companies like FPL protect their profits and fight the transition to cleaner forms of energy.

This story is particularly timely as many Americans bake under an unrelenting heat wave:

The Matrix saga illustrates the political obstacles policymakers and experts face as they attempt to cut climate pollution from the power sector, one of the biggest greenhouse gas contributors in the US.

The ongoing clash between Matrix’s founder Joe Perkins, 72, and former CEO Jeff Pitts, 51, is exposing the firm’s decades of extensive influence peddling on behalf of utility clients.

The issue extends to several states. Records obtained by Floodlight and the Orlando Sentinel show that Matrix consulted for FPL, as well as another Florida company, Gulf Power, and Alabama Power. Matrix affiliated groups have also worked to advance power companies’ interests in Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and in front of the Environmental Protection Agency, public records show.

In Florida, Matrix’s work touched almost every level of politics, from influencing local mayoral and county commission elections to combating attempts to reshape the state constitution. In each of those cases, Matrix was working against politicians or policies fighting to curb the climate crisis by encouraging renewable power.

As Birmingham-based banbalch.com has reported, along with Legal Schnauzer, Matrix's tactics can get alarming. (Here is  link to a Ban Balch report on The Guardian story.) Writes The Guardian

Matrix employees had a Jacksonville journalist spied on after he wrote critically about FPL. And in 2020, Matrix even harnessed the power of the press for itself, when its employees acquired control of The Capitolist, a Tallahassee-based political news site which it used for favorable coverage, leaked records show.

“I find this to be horrifying and undemocratic,” said Gianna Trocino Bonner, former chief legislative aide for Rodríguez, after reviewing some of the leaked documents. “It’s unfortunate that our process allows for something like this to exist without accountability.”

As it turns out, Big Power can have more than one meaning:

Big power companies operate as monopolies with captive customers in much of the south-east US. They are supposed to be closely regulated, but their profits and unchecked political spending makes them some of the most powerful entities in a state.

Howard Crystal, an attorney for the environmental group Center for

Biological Diversity, said that US utilities are allowed monopoly power “because they are supposed to expand the public interest.

“[But] now we have this incredible corruption and a reversal of that because they are using their advantage to hang on to power and undermine democracy,” he said.

So far, there have been two criminal investigations into the campaign against Rodríguez and another Democratic state senate candidate, leading to charges against five people, though authorities have not accused Matrix or FPL of wrongdoing.

The report dives into the feud between Joe Perkins and Jeff Pitts:

Matrix’s principal, Perkins, says he discovered only after Pitts left the firm that he and other now-former employees had been conducting “shadow activities and operations” dating back to 2016. He is suing Pitts in Alabama for fraud and conspiracy.

“For many years and without my knowledge or approval, Pitts abused his power and position to benefit himself and his cronies,” Perkins said in a statement. “Upon realizing the extent of Pitts’s shadow operations and abuses of power, we filed our lawsuit against Pitts and those few rogue employees.”

Pitts, who left Matrix in December 2020 to start his own firm, Canopy Partners, did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. He is also suing Perkins, alleging defamation and extortion. A spokesperson for FPL said it stopped working with Canopy in late 2021.

In many ways this is a story of hard-ball politics:

FPL’s CEO Silagy in a recent interview denied knowing about or participating in the scheme against Rodríguez but said that Matrix had done “good work” for his company. Records show FPL trusted Matrix operatives with millions, including giving $14m to a single Matrix-run nonprofit in 2018 alone.

Silagy said the email in which he told his team to make Rodríguez’s life “a living hell” was “a poor choice of words.”

In Florida, FPL and Matrix demonstrated how a utility and its consultants can work in tandem to resist clean energy reforms. FPL deployed lobbyists to the capital, while Matrix hired private investigators to dig for dirt and had operatives funnel dark money and order attack ads.

Few examples are clearer than the case of South Miami. When the small south Florida city’s mayor helped pass an ordinance in 2017 mandating rooftop solar panels on new construction, a network of 10 FPL-aligned operatives mobilized to ensure his ouster.

The team decided an effort to repeal the ordinance would probably fail. So they opted instead for “Mayor Stoddard’s electoral defeat and changing the makeup of the board”, according to a 2018 memo from Dan Newman, a Matrix contractor who was similarly involved in the campaign against Rodríguez.

Along with a private investigator, the group delved into Stoddard’s past for episodes to weaponize against him, such as a South Miami commissioner’s claim on Facebook that Stoddard had forcibly kissed her. Documents show Matrix operatives arranged for the commissioner to record a robocall in which she called Stoddard “a creep”. Pitts at the time forwarded a draft of the script to two FPL executives. Newman in his memo also took credit for a Miami Herald story about the allegation.

An organization that acts like a mafia should be treated like one,” Stoddard said.

From the beginning, Matrix showed no aversion to unsavory political tactics. In 1998, the firm distributed copies of a video in which a sex worker falsely alleged she had been sexually assaulted by a candidate for lieutenant governor. The sex worker later testified the allegations were untrue, and that she had been paid by a Birmingham businessman to make them.

In 2015, Matrix distributed fliers for a suspicious charity in a predominantly Black neighborhood in North Birmingham. The fliers warned residents not to let the Environmental Protection Agency test their soil for the presence of contaminants left by a coal plant.