Thursday, June 29, 2023

Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News flush their reputations down the toilet by dumping plans for investigative stories on embattled Southern Company

A newspaper in decline?

These are tough days for The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which is (was?) one of the most respected brands in journalism. The newspaper especially struggles when it comes to coverage of Atlanta-based Southern Company, the nation's second largest utility.

The latest example came yesterday when WSJ reported that Southern Company officials consider it a mystery that someone conducted surveillance on former CEO Tom Fanning and his one-time girlfriend, Kim Tanaka. K.B. Forbes, publisher of the Ban Balch blog and CEO of the CDLU public charity and advocacy group, calls BS on that. Under the headline "Mumbo Jumbo! No Mystery who Paid for Southern Company Surveillance Operations," Forbes writes:

A report published by The Wall Street Journal today outlining the “mystery” corporate surveillance operations at Southern Company has spurred more scrutiny in that Southern Company claims “it has no idea who ordered the operation or why.”

“Southern Company is using mumbo jumbo words. Southern Company paid for the surveillance, and they do not deny the expenditures at all,” said Ernesto Pichardo, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CDLU.

“Last year, according to news reports, Southern Company paid a generous financial settlement to former Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning’s  ex-girlfriend, Kim Tanaka, and the spy who infiltrated her life. Southern Company has habitually lied and misused investor funds to target alleged enemies, including us, the CDLU. In November, we anonymously received financial and internal documents showing unequivocally that Southern Company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a two-month period in 2020 to conduct surveillance, threaten minority families, and terrorize innocent individuals, including young children, using a network of criminal goons and paid stooges. The documents have independently been verified,” Pichardo, a respected civil-rights champion, stated.

Here is an report on the WSJ story. Yahoo! finance has a report on the CDLU's story, in which Forbes traces the "mystery" to Montgomery-based consulting firm Matrix LLC and its owner, Joe Perkins:

Southern Company appears to have relied heavily on the obscure consulting firm Matrix, LLC, founded by Joe Perkins. Secret contracts allegedly paying Perkins and his affiliated entities $2.2 million a year without the need to invoice led to the eventual ouster in November of Alabama Power CEO Mark A. Crosswhite. Alabama Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company.

Ernesto Pichardo helps tie things together:

“Contracts allegedly giving carte blanche power and resources to Joe Perkins appears to be a betrayal of the fiduciary obligations to investors. Surveillance operations allegedly misusing company funds for personal and illegal purposes need to be thoroughly investigated by regulators and law enforcement. In today’s Wall Street Journal article, Southern Company prematurely states, ‘We have moved on.’ We, the CDLU, have not and we will continue working with federal and state investigators to protect our civil rights, our children, and our well-being from out-of-control utility companies who spend millions on surveillance programs, yet have no idea who authorized them,” Pichardo added.

As Forbes points out, much of this has been reported in the online press:

Last August, news reports revealed that Fanning and his then-girlfriend Kim Tanaka were spied on in 2017 in a surveillance operation allegedly authorized by Alabama Power and conducted by operatives working for Matrix. The apparent objective was to obtain photographic evidence that Fanning was bisexual and possibly blackmail him.

In 1993, Pichardo won a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision for religious freedom and Civil Rights after his Afro-Caribbean faith came under attack due to blatant intolerance and discrimination by racists and religious bigots. Pichardo has been a member of the Board of Directors of the CDLU since 2003.

An earlier example of WSJ's willingness to trash its own reputation came when -- someone, somehow -- convinced it to scuttle investigative stories on the accounting fraud, racketeering, and shoddy construction work that have plagued Southern Company for years. (Note: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has owned WSJ since 2007, so that might explain a lot. WSJ and Fox News now essentially are conjoined twins.) Bloomberg News (BN), which also used to enjoy a stellar reputation, was willing to take similar steps, canceling a planned investigative story on Southern Company.

Longtime Alabama attorney and civil-rights advocate Donald Watkins, has reported on these apparent examples of gross journalism malpractice. Writes Watkins:

The Southern Company’s Washington, D.C. office has successfully coordinated public-relations initiatives that completely co-opt and shut down negative investigative news stories that were developed for publication by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal. These Southern Company “catch and kill” initiatives occurred in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

The Southern Company’s “catch and kill” of a Wall Street Journal investigative story was proudly celebrated by the board of directors during a dinner at the company’s annual shareholders meeting last month.

This effective approach to managing media content from New York-based news organizations is an extension of the Southern Company's “capture and control” program that began at its Alabama Power affiliate in 2017. National Public Radio (NPR) “outed” this creative program in a December 19, 2022, article titled, “In the Southeast, power company money flows to news sites that attack their critics.”

This raises all kinds of disturbing questions? Did WSJ and BN succumb to pressure from someone representing Southern Company's interests? Were they "incentivized" in some other ways -- perhaps with trips or junkets, gifts, favors (sexual or of other varieties), or maybe the old standby, cold, hard cash?

We appear to be talking about coverups, by news-gathering organizations that are supposed to be uncovering malfeasance. In short, WSJ and BN appear to have engaged in malfeasance of their own. Other media outlets should expose them for the journalistic frauds they apparently have become.

That is particularly disturbing because a nuclear disaster is looming in East Georgia because of corruption and incompetence at Southern Company. Writes Watkins:

As explained in my June 17, 2023, article, Units 3 and 4 will likely experience a Level 5 to 7 catastrophic nuclear disaster shortly after Unit 3 goes into commercial service. In light of the engineering flaws, shoddy workmanship, and lack of thorough, proper, and independent quality control inspections at Units 3 and 4, this nuclear disaster is inevitable.

Since 2017, politics has trumped public safety in the construction of the Units 3 and 4. Today, these units are nuclear deathtraps.

More than 500,000 residents within an 11-county area surrounding Waynesboro, Georgia will have to be permanently resettled after the likely nuclear disaster at Unit 3.

Thousands will become seriously ill from radiation poisoning. Many will die.

At this juncture, nobody inside of state and federal government appears to care about these residents or their likely plight.

The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News don't seem to care, either.

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