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Local Spotlight: Shedding light on shady utility practices

A Con Edison power plant stands in a Brooklyn neighborhood across from Manhattan in New York City.
A Con Edison power plant stands in a Brooklyn neighborhood across from Manhattan in New York City.

A new investigation published in theOrlando Sentinel and The Guardian explores the influence utility companies have over our state politics, journalism, and environmental policy.

A trove of leaked documents illustrates how companies bribed ghost candidates, paid for a journalist to be stalked, bought media coverage, and infiltrated non-profit organizations. 

“Utilities are powerful political players and apparently they have no qualms about engaging in deceptive practices, unethical practices, and in other cases in illegal practices,” said Ari Peskoe, the director of the Harvard Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School.

In recent years, there were also two high-profile bribery cases involving state lawmakers and utility companies in Ohio and Illinois.

As part of our Local Spotlight series, we investigate the influence utility companies have over our democratic institutions, climate change policy, and our wallets.

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We received the following statements from Florida Power and Light and the consulting firm Matrix in response to the reporting.

Joe Perkins, Matrix CEO: Please recognize that without my cooperation and assistance in authenticating documents used in stories being written by the Florida media there would be no stories to write.  I have done this willingly because I want the truth about how rogue employees secretly created a secret shadow organization that for a least 5 years engaged in acts that both stole from and harmed Matrix.  Jeff Pitts, Abigail MacIver, Greg Gilbert and April Odum conspired to create a shadow organizational structure in which they each owned corporate entities that laundered millions of dollars for their personal benefit.  They participated in the creation of at least eighteen 501 (c)4 organizations that laundered in excess of 50 million dollars that came largely from Matrix’s clients in Florida.  Many of the actions they took on behalf of some of these clients may violate the law.  I filed a lawsuit against Pitts and his co-conspirators to make it extremely clear that Matrix played no role in these questionable activities.  I am disappointed that some reporters in Florida seemed determined to make Matrix, that had no involvement in or knowledge of these questionable acts, responsible for the actions of these rogue employees who had created second jobs for themselves that had nothing to do with Matrix.

During the time the four people mentioned above were operating their shadow organization there were more than 20 people working at Matrix.  If the reporters will look at the hundreds of emails and texts in their possession they will see the names of the four people mentioned above.  The conspiracy they formed went to great lengths to remain secret including giving code names to various actors, creating private email addresses to hide participation in activities from internal investigations, settings up a separate set of books, using UPS stores as official addresses of the c4 operations, and many other clandestine techniques.

 We intend to pursue our lawsuit which will tell the story of what these rogue employees and their co-conspirators did and will vindicate Matrix.

FPL Chief Communications Officer David Reuter: “We believe the facts in this matter are simple. Joe Perkins, the owner of consulting firm Matrix, is engaged in a bitter legal dispute with former employees. We suspect the documents were leaked to gain leverage in that legal dispute. Mr. Perkins has a federal record of making false statements, which calls into question the credibility of these documents. From the moment we learned about these allegations, we undertook a thorough investigation which found no evidence of illegal wrongdoing by FPL or any of our employees. We believe our company and our employees have acted legally in our business dealings and these documents provide both an inaccurate and misleading representation of our actions.”

Copyright 2022 WAMU 88.5

Chris Remington