Saturday, November 25, 2023

Allegations of money laundering enter the complex equation that brought career criminal Bryan Dawson to 1819 News, leading to the suicide of Bubba Copeland

Bryan Dawson (left) and Caleb Crosby

The former president and CEO of the conservative think tank Alabama Policy Institute (API) has been named in a criminal complaint that alleges money laundering in violation of federal campaign-finance laws, according to a post today at API is the founding entity behind 1819 News, the right-wing website that published a series of articles leading to the suicide of small-town Alabama mayor Fred "Bubba" Copeland. As CEO of API, Caleb Crosby formed 1819 News and entrusted it to career criminal Kenneth Bryan Dawson, who signed off on the Copeland articles, drawing condemnation from prominent voices in journalism and ethics around the country.

API might be the subject of a different kind of scrutiny now that a Washington, D.C., watchdog group has named him in a complaint alleging unlawful laundering of campaign contributions to political candidates in Florida. Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney who has become a leading voice in online investigative journalism, writes under the headline "Alabama Policy Institute's Caleb Crosby Named as a Participant in An FEC Money Laundering Complaint":

On January 25, 2023, 1819 News announced the departure of Caleb Crosby as the President and CEO of the Alabama Policy Institute (API).  According to 1819 News, “Crosby's leadership and vision were also credited for the formation and successful launch of both Rightside Radio and 1819 News.”

1819 News was launched in October 2021 with $1,077,500 that was funneled from API’s coffers to a nonprofit affiliate it owned called 1819 Media LLC. 1819 News is run by convicted cocaine trafficker, serial motorcycle and ATV thief, and attempted murderer Kenneth Bryan Dawson. He is the founder, president, chief executive officer, and publisher of 1819 News.

It was Caleb Crosby who brought Dawson into the API fold and trusted Dawson to do what was needed with the $1,077,500 1819 Media received from API.

Was 1819 News' reporting on Caleb Crosby's departure a model of journalistic transparency? Not exactly, reports Watkins:

In its January 25th article, 1819 News omitted any mention of the October 26, 2022, complaint that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Caleb Crosby, his Washington-based Senate Leadership Fund, and the litany of persons and entities that allegedly acted in concert with Crosby to violate federal campaign finance laws by unlawfully laundering campaign contributions to candidates for elective office in Florida. 

The purpose and effect of the alleged money laundering scheme was to illegally hide the identities of the true source or sources of contributions by routing them through conduit nonprofits to Super-PACs, which would ultimately fund electioneering activities.

Caleb Crosby and his Senate Leadership Fund were expressly named as "Respondents" in the CREW complaint.

The money-laundering allegations apparently made Caleb Crosby toxic in the API orbit, writes Watkins:

Within two months after the CREW complaint was filed with the FEC, Caleb Crosby fled API. Thereafter, API began the legal process of distancing itself from a very toxic Kenneth Bryan Dawson and 1819 Media.

On December 9, 2022, Dawson formed a “for-profit” corporate entity named 1819 News, LLC. This entity continues to function as the multimedia news/propaganda wing of API.

On May 11, 2023, API and Dawson dissolved 1819 Media as a legal entity.

API continues to maintain editorial control over Dawson's 1819 News, via funding from API-affiliated mega-donors. Likewise, 1819 News continues to promote the causes and people affiliated with API.

Like many stories involving peculiar activities, this one can be filed under the heading of "Follow the Money," Watkins reports:

API's transfer of $1,077,500 to 1819 Media fits the pattern of money laundering that is alleged in the CREW complaint.  API's infusion of cash to 1819 Media and Kenneth Bryan Dawson was so massive that 1819 Media ended the 2021 tax year with a surplus of $590,251.

Beyond the $1,077,500 funneled to 1819 Media, API declared an additional $405,177 in Part III(4)(b) of its Form 990 for “expenses” related to "news media services."

In all, three-fourths of API's money for 2021 was channeled into media activities, with Kenneth Bryan Dawson getting the lion's share of this money.

That brings us to API's board of directors, or as Watkins puts it -- "What Did API Board Members Know About Dawson, and When Did They Know It?

In Part VI(A)(5) of API’s 2021 tax return, the nonprofit organization claimed that it did not “become aware during the year of a significant diversion of the organization’s assets.”

API’s Form 990 for 2021, however, affirms that its board members had actual aknowledge of the $1,077,500 in cash that was transfered to 1819 Media and Dawson, and approved or ratified it. In fact, API certified in Part VI(B)(11)(a) that a copy of the 990 was provided to each board member before it was filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

One of the board members listed on the Form 2021 for 2021 who received a copy of the tax return before it was filed is Huntsville, AL, attorney Rod Steakley. Based upon Steakley's legal expertise and professional background, he should have conducted heightened scrutiny on: (a) API’s transfer of $1,077,500 to 1819 Media and (b) Kenneth Bryan Dawson’s extensive criminal history. Steakley also serves as the longtime outside legal counsel to Alabama A&M University.

Did Steakley simply skip those steps in the oversight process? The answer to that question (and others)  appears to have intentionally been kept under wraps. Writes Watkins:

So, what happened to 1819 Media's $590,251 surplus in 2022? The answer to this question is shrouded in secrecy because API has not made its Form 990 for 2022 publicly available. 

The Form 990 for 2022 was originally due on May 15, 2023.  Assuming API sought and received a one-time automatic six-month extension for filing the Form 990, it would have been due on November 15, 2023.

API has engaged in a web of deceit concerning the creation of 1819 Media and the true nature and scope of its history with Kenneth Bryan Dawson. This web of deceit is described in detail in an exclusive November 23, 2023, Thanksgiving Day article we published on this website.

Today, API, Kenneth Bryan Dawson, and 1819 News are swept up in a firestorm of controversy in the aftermath of a November 1, 2023, 1819 News article that “outed” Smiths Station, Alabama, Mayor Fred “Bubba” Copeland’s cross-dressing (in the privacy of his home) and his James Patterson-style works of erotic fiction. An embarrassed and emotionally distraught Copeland responded to this article by killing himself two days later. 

Copeland’s suicide is the subject of a homicide investigation by the Lee County, Alabama, Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices.

API's shifting of funds to 1819 Media and Dawson points to several possible criminal violations and should draw the attention of both the FBI and IRS offices in Alabama, Watkins writes:

The CREW complaint of alleged campaign finance law violations is reportedly the subject of state and federal criminal investigations in Florida.

API's $1,077,500 transaction with 1819 Media and Kenneth Bryan Dawson cries out for a criminal investigation by Alabama-based FBI and IRS Criminal Division law enforcement officials. It is dripping with the stench of alleged "theft by charitable fraud," money laundering, and federal tax fraud.

Former president Donald Trump was indicted on 91 felony counts (including a Georgia state RICO charge) in four different state and federal jurisdictions on far less objective evidence than is present in the alleged API/1819 Media/Kenneth Bryan Dawson charitable fraud, tax fraud, and FEC money laundering case.


legalschnauzer said...

Attorney Donald V. Watkins presents comments on his Facebook page that shine light on the right-wing 1819 News site, the career criminal who became its CEO, and the dubious series of stories that led to the suicide of a small-town Alabama mayor.

Here is the link to Watkins' Facebook page, and the comments come below:

legalschnauzer said...

Donald V. Watkins
It should be apparent to everybody by now that the Alabama Policy Institute is a "snake pit." The more we dig around in the snake pit, the more snakes we find. Convicted cocaine trafficker, serial thief, and attempted murderer Kenneth Bryan Dawson is the primary snake-handler. For reasons that defy logic, the Alabama Policy Institute installed Dawson as the president, CEO, and publisher of 1819 News.

legalschnauzer said...

Donald V. Watkins
In an upcoming article, we will explain the real reason Kenneth Bryan Dawson was able to exit the Colorado state prison system early, despite his documented history as a career criminal. [Hint: It has nothing to do with his proverbial "Saul to Paul conversion on the road to Damascus."]
We will also explain why federal authorities never charged Dawson with drug trafficking offenses, even though he was trading stolen motorcycles and ATVs to Mexican Carter members in exchange for the cocaine and methamphetamine he used to peddle in Colorado's communities and schools.
Finally, we will explain why no one who has interacted with Kenneth Bryan Dawson regarding the Alabama Policy Institute's financial support of 1819 Media and 1819 News can afford to trust him, considering the state and federal criminal investigations arising from the matters presented in CREW’s pending money laundering complaint with the Federal Election Committee.

legalschnauzer said...

A final thought from Donald Watkins on the confounding story behind 1819 News -- Donald V. Watkins
All Alabama Policy Institute board members and officers in 2021 and 2022 may need to lawyer up with good criminal defense attorneys. Kenneth Bryan Dawson has plenty of experience in the criminal justice system, but API's board members and the organization's financial supporters have none. At the end of the day, Dawson has shown us that he really knows how to get a great plea deal out of the criminal justice system. Dawson went from facing 384 years in prison to getting sentenced for just 16 years for all of his crimes. Dawson's massive reduction in years of criminal exposure was a masterful job on his part, but it came at a huge and dangerous price that he was more than willing pay.