• Donald V. Watkins

Alabama Power Co. Paid $2.5 Million To Joe Perkins, "Without Invoicing"

Updated: 6 days ago

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on December 26, 2021


Alabama Power Company (APC) is the Number One polluter in Alabama and has the dubious distinction of running a plant in Jefferson County that is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the nation. The company's coal-fired power plants release toxins that poison the air Alabamians breathe, the ground their children play on, and the water residents drink. APC operates an electrical power monopoly that brings in about $6 billion a year in annual revenues from commercial and retail customers in Alabama. APC is the only public utility in America with a 5% minimum annual return on shareholders' equity that is guaranteed by Alabama taxpayers.


Joseph W. Perkins, Jr., is a confessed lawbreaker. He has also been a political operative for APC for many years. We published Perkins' Federal Election Commission (FEC) investigative file, including his March 30, 1992 confession to breaking federal election laws, in a November 7, 2021 article titled, "Joe Perkins Confessed to Breaking Federal Election Laws."


Perkins escaped criminal prosecution because the statute of limitations expired before the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) could complete its work in his case. The DOJ referred Perkins' case to the FEC, which secured his confession and assessed a $5,000 civil fine against him.


Despite Perkins' shady past, APC has made Perkins its perennial contracting partner. We have obtained copies of two recent APC contracts with Perkins. [Click here to read contracts APC Agreement No. 3-18-00552 and No. 3-18-00487]. The agreements cover an 18-month period from January 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019. Perkins pocketed $2,568,000 from these agreements.


In an unusual and highly suspect departure from standard billing procedures for public companies, Joe Perkins was relieved of the obligation to submit itemized monthly invoices for his payments. APC's $2.5 million flowed to Perkins automatically.


Perkins' "Scope of Professional Services" under the agreements was likely intentionally vague and ambiguous. The agreements required Perkins to establish and maintain direct contact with federal elected officials, which is the political zone Perkins pledged to avoid in a "Conciliation Agreement" he executed after he confessed to making $8,000 in illegal campaign contributions to the 1986 Congressional campaign of close friend and ex-felon Roy Johnson.


The APC agreements also authorized Perkins to cultivate and maintain direct relationships with state and local elected and appointed officials, federal and state regulatory bodies, news reporters, grassroots community organizations and their leaders, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) and other educational associations, trade unions, civil rights groups, Black Belt officials, environmental justice groups, aspiring politicians, and any other individual or entity that might pose a threat to APC's business monopoly and growing political influence.


Perkins designated two of his many companies as the contracting partners with APC: (a) Perkins Communications, LLC, which was founded on January 2, 1997, and (b) Matrix, LLC, which was founded on October 27, 1999.


Perkins did not include Perkins & Associates, Inc. (P&A), in the mix. P&A was the company Perkins used for his illegal campaign financing scheme. To avoid sanctions on P&A, Perkins told the FEC that P&A was financially destitute and inactive due to the multi-year DOJ and FEC investigations into his illegal conduct.


APC Agreement No. 3-18-00552


APC Agreement No. 3-18-00552 authorized Perkins to provide "ongoing direct relations with groups that may have impact on Company policy and well-being." These groups include: (a) the AEA, (b) the Alabama AFL-CIO, (c) the Atlanta-based National Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), (d) various education groups and associations, (e) media outlets, (f) Black Belt officials, and (g) any other organizations or entities that might threaten or adversely impact APC's: (i) monopoly as a provider of electrical power, (ii) cozy relationship with federal, state, and local environmental protection agencies, (iii) control over news reporters in Alabama who cover environmental and regulatory matters, and (iv) decades-long chokehold on the governor's office, state legislature, Public Service Commission (PSC), state and federal courts in Alabama, the Alabama attorney general's office, Alabama's three U.S. Attorneys, and mayors of the state's major municipalities.


The APC agreement is essentially a "capture and control" contract. Joe Perkins is authorized to "capture" the support of public officials, including U.S. Senators, Congressional House members, state legislators, PSC members, governors, big city mayors, and state and federal judges, as well as the leaders of the targeted educational, civil rights, environmental, and grassroots community organizations.


APC and Perkins "control" the captured politicians and groups by: (a) raising campaign contributions for powerful elected officials and aspiring politicians, (b) directing charitable contributions from APC's Foundation (APF) to the pet projects of influential public officials and leaders of educational institutions, political groups, civil rights organizations, and grassroots organizations, and (c) arranging jobs or consulting contracts for the wives, mistresses, paramours, romantic partners, and/or family members of public officials, judges, media representatives, and/or community leaders with APC's network of vendors and strategic business alliance partners.


Agreement No. 3-18-00552 paid Perkins $124,000 per month, "without invoicing." The agreement ran from August 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019.


APC Agreement No. 3-18-00487


APC executed Agreement No. 3-18-00487 with Perkins, doing business under the tradename "Matrix, LLC." Under the "Scope of Professional Services," Matrix is required to: (a) [d]evelop strategies to allow Company to communicate with state grassroots groups more efficiently and effectively," (b) "[p]rovide support in strategy development for the confluence of environmental legislative initiatives at the federal and state levels and certain ones at the state and local levels," (c) "[m]aintain relationships with those who influence state environmental policy ....," (d) monitor "Environmental Justice organizations," both existing and newly formed, and (e) work on water policy in the state of Alabama with "such agencies as the Alabama Department of Water Resources, Alabama Water Resources, and/or other government agency," among other things.


Agreement No. 3-18-00487 paid Joe Perkins $90,000 per month. "without invoicing." The agreement ran from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.


The Payment "Without Invoicing" Clause is Unusual and Highly Suspect


APC's payment of $2.5 million to Perkins, "without invoicing," is unusual and highly suspect. However, this arrangement would afford APC senior management executives "plausible deniability" for any action by Perkins that may run afoul of the law. Should APC executives be forced to testify in a deposition, or a grand jury proceeding, or a trial about Perkins' political activities, they can claim a lack of knowledge about the specifics of his work, or assert that Perkins acted outside the authorized scope of his work. As such, the "no invoicing" clause is a prophylactic measure that is designed to protect APC executives in the event Perkins is caught breaking the law, again.


The intentionally vague and ambiguous "Scope of Professional Services" contractual language is equally unusual and suspect. This language provides Perkins great latitude to engage in a host of nefarious and clandestine activities that have the purpose and/or effect of: (a) avoiding or minimizing federal and state regulatory scrutiny, (b) enhancing APC's political support at the federal, state, and local levels of government, and (c) silencing APC's few vocal critics.


Both parties agreed Perkins would not lobby public officials. Lobbying would subject Perkins to background investigations by the regulatory agencies. In light of Perkins' FEC confession and Conciliation Agreement, this would be problematic for APC.


APC Has Been "Buying" or "Renting" Politicians for Decades


George Wallace, Alabama's most famous governor, never trusted APC. Starting in his second term, Wallace fought every rate increase APC tried to ramp down the throats of its customers during his term in office.


To neutralize Wallace's pro-consumer activism, APC made a concerted effort to get President Richard Nixon to charge him with federal crimes of bid rigging, soliciting and receiving illegal campaign contributions, and accepting kickbacks. APC's efforts to silence Wallace by imprisoning him failed.


After Wallace left office in 1987, APC went on an unrelenting campaign to "buy" or "rent" every politician of any influence at the federal, state, and local government level whose public office had the potential to impact any aspect of the company's operations. APC unleashed an army of lobbyists to "wine and dine" greedy, self-centered, state legislators and members of Congress, whom APC viewed as "political whores." APC also seized control of the three-member PSC, the Alabama legislature, Alabama's state and federal judicial systems, the state's Congressional delegation, Alabama's top state and federal prosecutors in Alabama, and the governor's office.


APC's Foundation silenced traditional civil rights groups by awarding token amounts of its $9.5 million in annual giving to recipients like the Congressional Black Caucus ($10,000), Dr. Martin Luther King's SCLC ($50,000), the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta ($10,000), the NAACP ($1,000), the National Council of Negro Women ($100), the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma ($5,000), the United Negro College Fund ($10,000), the Selma and Black Belt Region Abuse Sanctuary for victims of domestic abuse ($300), Alabama State University ($50,000), Alabama A&M University ($25,000), Tuskegee University ($25,000), Spellman College in Atlanta ($5,000), and the Miles College Booster Club ($2,500).


APF's 2017 donations to these groups pale in comparison to the amounts APF awarded to Auburn University ($2,475,324, with a future commitment for $2,000,000), the University of Alabama at Birmingham ($500,000), and various animal welfare and wildlife organizations ($522,775).


APC hired investigative reporters away from their media outlets. APC was able to neutralize struggling daily newspapers like The Birmingham News, The Montgomery Advertiser, The Huntsville Times, and Mobile Press Register by using a combination of advertising dollars, financial contributions from the APC's Foundation, event sponsorships, and consulting fees for seminar participants affiliated with these entities.


The Foundation also funded the purchase of Alabama's oldest black-owned newspaper in 2016 by a non-profit entity headed by one of APC's black executives. After the purchase, this newspaper -- The Birmingham Times -- abandoned its traditional role of reporting hard-hitting news on social justice issues and began anesthetizing Alabama's black community with a steady stream of "Happy News" on non-controversial topics.


Epilogue


Joe Perkins is the hunting buddy of powerful U.S. Senator Richard Shelby and Scott Coogler, the Chief U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Alabama. Shelby, who entered Congress in 1987 with a modest network that was derived from his annual salary as a city prosecutor and U.S. magistrate, will leave Capitol Hill at the end of 2023 as one of the richest men in Senate. Scott Coogler owes his lifetime job as a federal judge to Shelby.


It is unclear why Alabama's senior Senator and a chief federal judge would be hunting buddies with Perkins, a confessed federal lawbreaker.


Perkins is presently defending Alabama's all-white, 19-judge, appellate court system in the Alabama Supreme Court case of Donald V. Watkins, et al. v. Matrix, LLC, and Joseph W. Perkins, Jr., Case No. 1200892. No social justice group that received money from APF has joined in the legal battle to dismantle this modern-day form of judicial apartheid in a state that is 26% black.


Perkins' work with APC was designed to make the company untouchable. However, recent events threaten to implode APC's cozy relationship with Perkins. These events include: (a) a September 2, 2021 lawsuit filed by former Matrix CEO Jeff Pitts against Perkins alleging that Perkins engaged in extortion and racketeering activities; (b) state and federal law enforcement investigations in Florida that focus on Matrix's clandestine work for Florida Power & Light; and (c) in-depth investigative reporting by the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Times-Union into Matrix's political activities in Florida.


The influence-peddling schemes Perkins conceived, deployed, and micro-managed for APC may be his undoing in Florida.



IMAGE: Matrix's Joe Perkins and Alabama Power's Mark Crosswhite

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