Online post to be subpoenaed in Matrix trial

Online news publication Alabama Political Reporter (APR) is embroiled in the explosive lawsuit between political advisory groups Matrix LLC and Canopy Partners via a slew of court filings made Wednesday afternoon.

All of the employees listed on APR’s website were named in notices of intent to serve subpoenas filed by Canopy Wednesday. Although the subpoenas make no specific allegation, they infer a financial connection between Matrix and APR. Whether Canopy’s subpoenas are merely a “fishing expedition” or are based on actual knowledge of Matrix’s internal expenses is unclear at this point.

Still, it’s a new twist in the lawsuit between Matrix’s Joe Perkins and his former protege Jeff Pitts, the former Matrix CEO who broke away to form Canopy in late 2020. The move sparked a lawsuit from Perkins, who claims that Pitts and other former Matrix employees stole proprietary information and secretly worked to create the competing company while remaining Matrix employees. The court documents filed, as well as the leaked documents, have become fodder for numerous news articles in Florida and Alabama.

Perkins’ Montgomery-based Matrix has been a powerhouse in Alabama and the Southeast in particular for many years. It has earned a reputation as the place where powerful politicians and corporations go to not only aggressively pursue their agendas, but also as an organization that knows how to aggressively take on the enemies of its clients. Matrix has been connected to some of the most powerful politicians in the state over the past decades, and its largest business client in the state is Alabama Power.

Reports that have broken out in Florida over the past few weeks have used leaked documents and court documents to place Matrix or its agents at the center of Florida Power & Light (FPL) activities that allegedly included secretly taking over the publication online information The Capitalist. and pay to have a Florida Times-Union columnist critical of the utility tracked by a private investigator. Likewise, these stories also featured leaked internal documents that showed Canopy-linked groups were able to place a “ghost candidate” on ballots in an attempt to siphon votes from a candidate who contradicted the agenda. FPL policy.

Last week, added to this report an article about documents indicating that Matrix also paid a Florida private investigator to collect information on the associates of Tom Fanning, the CEO of The Southern Company. The Southern Company is the parent company of Alabama Power, Georgia Power and Mississippi Power.

In reports published in recent weeks, Perkins claimed to have no knowledge of these activities, indicating that they were carried out independently by Pitts. Conversely, Pitts made statements saying Perkins knew everything.

One of the central issues with the stories out of Florida was how Matrix operatives effectively took over The Capitalist and leaked documents that show FPL leaders exercised editorial control over what the publication covered.

Similar utility involvement in some Alabama-based news websites has also come into question in recent years, particularly in relation to the publication of news articles created by Alabama Power that end up being broadcast. on the APR website and on the Yellowhammer News website. Both new sites published articles that first appeared on Alabama Power’s Alabama News Center website, sometimes listing them as staff reports or otherwise obscuring Alabama Power’s involvement in the creation of the ‘story.

Of the 18 notices of subpoena filed Wednesday by Canopy, 11 were addressed to APR owners Bill and Susan Britt and their employees, six focused on current and former Matrix employees and one on the hunting club owner Five Star Preserve, Harry Pasisis.

The subpoenas to Britts and APR employees all seek records of Matrix payments to APR, communications between APR and the right-wing online news publication Yellowhammer News, and any communications APR may have regarding Perkins. or Pitts and their companies.

The first notice of the subpoena requires the production of “All records of any payments to or from you and your employer and entities owned or related to Joe Perkins, including but not limited to Matrix LLC, Perkins Communications, P&K Consulting and Perkins Property, including monthly installments or other contractual payments and all “special work orders” from 2015 to 2020.”

The second reads: “All communications between Alabama Political Reporter and Yellowhammer News and Joseph Perkins, Matrix, LLC, or any of Matrix’s employees or agents from 2015 through 2020.”

When asked if APR had ever received a down payment from Matrix or received any money from the company, Britt wrote, “Other than what I have read, I have no knowledge of the lawsuit between Jeff Pitts and Joe Perkins. Neither I nor anyone on the APR staff have a contract with Matrix. Other than advertising, we received no money from Matrix.

Britt also said her organization has not shared any Matrix material with other news outlets or coordinated with Yellowhammer News on any story.

Lagniappe received dozens of pages of documents believed to have been leaked inside The Matrix. One of those listed as being created by Matrix employee Kim Hines is titled “Special Work Budget Dated April 2013 Properties”, which includes APR on a list of organizations receiving Matrix money. , C4 and JK.

On the spreadsheet next to “Al Political Reporter,” the line marked “Costs” says $8,000. The next column under ‘Notes’ says: “This is a monthly cost. John will handle this once he has Zeke’s approval. ‘Funding Source’ is listed as ‘Work Order Special/MTX” and “Total Costs” are listed as $96,000.

Lagniappe was unable to independently verify the full authenticity of the documents, which also appear to contain internal emails from Perkins orchestrating a plan to smear former Civil Service Commissioner Terry Dunn in an effort to smack him. removed from office. Dunn had called for hearings to determine whether Alabama Power’s rate of return — its state-guaranteed profit — was too high and faced a withering campaign viewing it as a tool of environmental activists. He was beaten by current PSC member Chip Beeker in 2014.

Sent the documents alleging Matrix payment to APR, Britt stuck to his original statement.

“I have no idea what these documents are or where they came from,” he wrote. “As I said before, we only received advertising from Matrix.”

Lagniappe contacted Yellowhammer News owner Allison Ross to ask if that publication had contacted Matrix regarding its editorial content or if Matrix had received any money unrelated to advertising. She did not respond before publication.

Other subpoena documents filed Wednesday ask The Matrix for evidence regarding various individuals and entities, including: the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, the family of deceased University of Alabama student Megan Rondini, the family of TJ Bunn, Jr., accused of raping Rondini in 2015, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and disgraced former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, to name a few.

Jacob L. Thornton