Montgomery-based consulting firm Matrix LLC appears to have been a key player in Florida's 2020 elections by helping facilitate "ghost candidates" and funding "dark money" ad campaigns.

According to The Orlando Sentinel, Secure Florida's Future paid $470,000 in 2020 to Matrix and $2 million to the non-profit Coalition Against Electricity Deregulation, which is chaired by a relative of a former Matrix employee.

Chamber executive vice president of strategic communication and marketing Ivette Faulkner told The Sentinel the payment to Matrix was "non-political" and meant "to educate Floridians on issues that impact Florida's economic and job growth."

However, The Sentinel reported that Matrix operatives funded "ghost candidates" — candidates running without a declared party — in three Florida Senate races in 2020 via dark-money ad campaigns ostensibly to pull away votes from Democratic candidates in favor of Republicans. As a result, five people have been criminally charged for their role in the scandal.

SEE ALSO: Contract shows Alabama Power paid Matrix $124,000 a month for political consulting services — Tasked with maintaining 'ongoing direct relations' with AEA, AFL-CIO

Tax documents show Matrix also surveilled a journalist in Jacksonville who had been critical of Florida Power & Light, with whom Matrix had been working for several years, and secretly took control of The Capitolist, a Tallahassee-based news site, The Sentinel reported.

"The amount of dark money spending by corporate interests has exploded," Michael Barfield, director of public access initiatives for the Florida Center for Government Accountability, told The Sentinel. "... Dark money takes power away from the people, and until there's meaningful change, corporations will have all the muscle."

Matrix has come under scrutiny in Alabama for a lawsuit with Canopy Partners and its connections to Alabama Power and statewide news sites Yellowhammer and Alabama Political Reporter.

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