In 2018, Alabama Power signed a contract with Matrix LLC in which it agreed to pay the political consulting firm $124,000 per month for their services, including “external relations” with controversial groups like the Alabama Education Association (AEA).
Alabama Power’s compliance and contracts manager Bertram K. Orum signed the contract on June 29, 2018, and Matrix founder Joe Perkins signed the contract the following month. According to the agreement, the contract remained in effect until at least July 31, 2019.
Alabama Power also tasked Matrix with providing “ongoing direct relations” with other groups, such as the labor organization Alabama American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (Alabama AFL-CIO) and the National Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Matrix’s “Public / Media Relations” in the contract include providing assistance to media representatives and preparing company positions on “crucial public issues.”
Matrix LLC is based in Montgomery. Its clients include utilities such as Alabama Power and Florida Power & Light.
According to an investigation last year from NPR, six media outlets collectively received at least $900,000 from Matrix, its clients, and associated entities between 2013 and 2020. The report alleged that Matrix paid $8,000 a month to Alabama Political Reporter since 2013 and drew up a proposed website design for them in 2015.
The investigation also alleged that the nonprofits run by Alabama Power contractors, Matrix and Yellowhammer News, exchanged funds. Yet, Yellowhammer News owner Allison Ross said that her news organization had no relationship with Alabama Political Reporter or Matrix LLC.
Perkins told NPR that his firm only paid news sites for advertisements and other typical client services. Perkins denied Matrix's responsibility for the payments because a former executive acted without the firm's consent.
Matrix was previously accused of surveilling the Southern Company CEO and a journalist writing critically about Florida Power & Light. They've also been accused of dumping millions into ballot initiatives and offering a job to a Jacksonville official so he would resign.
The AEA is an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) and has had an adverse history with the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP). The ALGOP even has a "standing rule" in its bylaws to discourage members from accepting donations from the AEA. The rule claimed that the NEA was a "veritable adjust of the Democratic Party."
Nevertheless, the AEA continues to fund Republican lawmakers through its political action committee Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education. Some have blamed the AEA for the failed 2022 school choice bill.
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