Power Play: How utilities paid a consulting group that infiltrated local news media, attacked clean energy foes and intimidated public officials
A months-long investigation by NPR’s David Folkenflik and Floodlight’s Mario Ariza and Miranda Green uncovered just how far two major power companies went to try to make sure their political foes didn’t dampen their profits or hold them accountable. The reporting, building off of an earlier Floodlight investigation with the Orlando Sentinel, found that Alabama Power and Florida Power & Light paid consulting company Matrix LLC millions over a decade, resulting in undisclosed payments to news outlets that cast the utilities in a positive light and were critical of those who questioned their power. A freelance ABC News producer was also hired to misleadingly represent herself and confront politicians over controversies relevant to Matrix clients. These revelations were followed by leadership changes at both power companies, internal investigations into their work with Matrix, as well as broad calls for transparency and reform. ABC News also severed ties with the freelance journalist. The story offers a rare window into the way power companies and consultants manipulate the democratic system, and the pressure local regulators and lawmakers confront if they seek to hold those corporations accountable, and what happens when local news erodes.