|"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.)