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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

The Alabama Policy Institute's Tangled Web of Deception with Career Criminal Kenneth Bryan Dawson

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyright and Published on November 23, 2023; Updated November 24, 2024

IMAGE: 1819 News president, CEO, publisher Kenneth Bryan Dawson (left) and Montgomery, Alabama businesswoman Lynda Blanchard (right)

An Editorial Opinion -- Special Thanksgiving Day Edition

On June 1, 2021, the Alabama Policy Institute (API) and Kenneth Bryan Dawson worked together to form a non-profit named 1819 Media, LLC.   In October 2021, Dawson launched a conservative multimedia news company named 1819 News.

Dawson had no prior experience in journalism. In 2008, Dawson earned a GED in the Colorado state prison system. While incarcerated, Dawson earned college credits at Northeastern Junior College (Sterling, Colorado) for English Composition and Abnormal Psychology. In total, Dawson completed 46 hours of college credits towards a junior college degree.


Despite Dawson's anemic qualifications in the field of journalism, API funneled $1,077,500 to 1819 Media to set up Kenneth Bryan Dawson as the founder, president, chief executive officer, and publisher of 1819 News.  

Today, 1819 News functions as the API’s propaganda arm for “providing news and commentary on primarily statewide policy and legislative activity in a multimedia range of formats (such as talk radio, podcasts, vodcasts, and written news), and offering principled analysis on the topics of the day.

The $1,077,500 funneled to 1819 Media represented more than half of the $2,002,820 API reported in contributions on its Federal Form 990 tax return for 2021.

API’s Form 990 for 2022 was due on May 15, 2023. The organization was entitled to an automatic 6-month extension by the Internal Revenue Service, if requested.  The new due date should have been November 15, 2023. 

As of today's date, API’s Form 990 tax return for 2022 is not publicly available.


A “Trojan Horse” Approach to Alabama Registration Requirements for Non-Profit Organizations That Solicit Money

API prides itself on promoting transparency in government.  Yet, API's own business practices are shrouded in secrecy, deception and obfuscation. The maneuvers employed for API's OWN gain screen out the very sunlight the organization seeks to shine upon EVERY OTHER state of Alabama government agency and all other entities working or operating within the borders of this state that they claim to want to protect.


At the time of its transfer of $1,077,500 to 1819 Media, API was a non-profit organization that was duly registered with the Alabama Attorney General’s office. 1819 Media was an unregistered non-profit affiliate.


Instead of registering 1819 Media with the Attorney General in its own name, API chose to list 1819 Media as a “Related Organization” on the Institute's Form 990, Schedule R, tax return for 2021.  API claimed in Part III(30) of the tax return that it owned 100% of 1819 Media.


By listing 1819 Media as a “Related Organization,” API effectively aided and abetted Kenneth Bryan Dawson in keeping his status as a career criminal under the radar of a state regulatory agency.  This maneuver is called a “Trojan Horse” approach to state law registration requirements.

In addition to co-founding 1819 Media with API and serving as 1819 News' top executive, Kenneth Bryan Dawson is a convicted cocaine trafficker, serial thief of motorcycles and ATVs, and attempted murderer.  Dawson literally traded these stolen vehicles to Mexican drug cartel members in exchange for cocaine that he trafficked throughout Colorado and elsewhere.  Additionally, Dawson nearly beat a police informant to death for "snitching" on him.

Dawson's career criminal status and lack of journalism credentials did not matter to API because Dawson used the knowledge, skills, and abilities he picked up in his prison's Abnormal Pyschology classes to become API's bosom buddy. Dawson also sold API on his proverbial "Saul to Paul conversion on the road to Damascus."

API bought into Kenneth Bryan Dawson and his "From Breaking Bad to Redemption" story -- hook, line, and sinker.

API's "Trojan Horse" maneuver with and for Dawson impeded the ability of law enforcement authorities, such as the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Alabama Department of Public Safety; business regulatory agencies, such as the State of Alabama Attorney General's Office Public Corruption Division and the Consumer Protection Division; The State of Alabama Department of Finance and the State Comptroller's Office to monitor API and 1819 Media for the purpose of determining if a convicted career criminal (i.e., Kenneth Bryan Dawson) was soliciting money from the public for API and/or 1819 Media in Alabama [or received any funding from any State agencies during or after the COVID Pandemic when the State of Alabama began looking for Grantees for surplus Federal COVID Funds].


API Aided and Abetted Dawson in Evading Detection by Law Enforcement Authorities


Section 13A-9-70 through 13A-9-84 of the Code of Alabama requires any non-exempt charitable organization that solicited contributions of $25,000 or more IN OR FROM ALABAMA to register with the Attorney General’s Office and file an annual financial statement with the state.  


API complied with this law.  The “Related Organization” listing for 1819 Media on API’s Form 990 spared 1819 Media from complying with these mandatory requirements in its own name in 2021 and 2022.


This "Trojan Horse" approach to registration was a calculated “cloak and dagger” legal maneuver by API, 1819 Media, and Dawson because Alabama accepts the Unified Registration Statement for non-profit organizations.  Question 14(B) on the form asks: Have any of the organization’s officers, directors, or principal executives been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? (If yes, attach a complete explanation.).”


By executing this legal maneuver, API, 1819 Media, and Dawson made sure that Dawson’s career criminal status was never formally disclosed to the Alabama Attorney General’s office. This way, API, 1819 Media, 1819 News, and Dawson were able to act in concert with each other to solicit donations from members of the public to disseminate API-generated propaganda/news from June 2021 through December 31, 2022.


1819 News' Bubba Copeland Article Blew the Lid off the Unholy Alliance Between API and Kenneth Bryan Dawson


As stated earlier, 1819 News functions today as the multimedia platform and propaganda wing of the Alabama Policy Institute.  Kenneth Bryan Dawson is API’s digital media darling and right-wing propaganda guru.


Last week, API felt the urgent need to issue a statement proclaiming that 1819 News and API formally separated on December 31, 2022. “There is no legal, editorial, or financial affiliation between the two entities,” said API.


This announcement was prompted by the firestorm of controversy engulfing Kenneth Bryan Dawson and 1819 News in the aftermath of its November 1, 2023, article that “outed” Smiths Station, Alabama Mayor Fred “Bubba” Copeland’s cross-dressing (in his home) and his James Patterson-style works of erotic fiction.  An embarrassed and emotionally distraught Copeland responded to this 1819 News article by killing himself two days later. 

IMAGE: The late Fred "Bubba" Copeland, mayor of Smiths Station, Alabama.

Media organizations around the state and across the nation condemned 1819 News’ November 1st article on Copeland as a media “hit job” with deadly consequences.


API’s board of directors knew, or reasonably should have known, that the Institute had climbed in bed with a dangerous career criminal when API voted to transfer $1,077,500 to 1819 Media for Dawson's use in 2021.  Dawson had $590,251 left over at the end of 2021. The $1,077,500 transferred to 1819 Media was more than half of the money API raised in 2021.  


In Part VI(A)(5) of API’s 2021 tax return, the non-profit claimed that it did not “become aware during the year of a significant diversion of the organization’s assets.” This response does not jive with the fact that API declared $405,177 in Part III(4)(b) for “expenses” related to its described "news media services" and funneled $1,077,500 to 1819 Media for “media” activities, as well.

In all, three-fourths of API's money for 2021 was channeled into media activities, with Kenneth Bryan Dawson getting the lion's share of this money.

On December 9, 2022, Bryan Dawson incorporated 1819 News, LLC, as a “for-profit” limited liability company.

Having birthed 1819 News and having sucessfully platformed Dawson, API dissolved 1819 Media on May 11, 2023.


1819 News Showered API-Affiliated Mega-Donors and Chosen Political Allies with Favorable Media Coverage


API’s mega-donors contributed over $2 million to the non-profit in 2021.  These donors reportedly included Lynda Blanchard, John Blanchard, Paul Wellborn, and various individuals and entities closely affiliated with them.

Lynda Blanchard and her husband John D. Blanchard manage residential apartment complexes and other real estate holdings in Alabama.  Lynda Blanchard served as Ambassador to Slovenia under President Donald Trump.  In 2022, Blanchard ran against Alabama Governor Kay Ivey in the Republican Primary for governor and lost.

The Blanchard family of individual and corporate contributions to API reportedly exceeded $250,000 from 2021 to 2022.  In Lynda Blanchard’s case, her tax deductible contributions to API were pooled with other donations to funnel $1,077,500 to 1819 Media. This money garnered Lynda Blanchard 29 favorable news stories in 1819 News during the gubernatorial campaign season.

Paul Wellborn owns and operates Wellborn Cabinet and related family-owned businesses. The Wellborn family of individual and corporate contributions to API reportedly exceeded $250,000 from 2021 to 2022.  Wellborn and his businesses have received favorable coverage in 1819 News on multiple occasions.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is the state official who is charged with the responsibility for overseeing compliance with the registration and reporting requirements from non-profits in Alabama. 1819 News has published 32 favorable articles on Marshall since 2021. The articles have gone a long way toward buying Kenneth Bryan Dawson safe passage in Alabama. 

IMAGE: Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Marshall, who was originally appointed to the Attorney General’s post by disgraced former governor Robert Bentley, has never been known for prosecuting hardcore drug dealers and street criminals. Every move Marshall makes is calculated to give him a strategic advantage for his next campaign for statewide office.  As such, Marshall is regarded as one of the least effective Attorneys General in Alabama history.

The Ties That Bind Dawson to API


Based upon our examination of the public record, Kenneth Bryan Dawson has NEVER:

(a) expressed any contrition for his crimes; (b) expressed any remorse or regret for his actions toward these crime victims and their families; and (c) issued a public apology for the hundreds, if not thousands of lives he destroyed by supplying illegal and illicit drugs to vulnerable people and communities, not to mention children. 

Eventually, Dawson was able to "Cage his Rage" enough to exit prison early. He successfully completed the prison's Anger Management class and maintained a 4.0 GPA in his prison-sponsored junior college courses.

All of the key ingredients Kenneth Bryan Dawson needed to successfully hustle API and 1819 Media were in place. As for API and its financial sponsors, they apparently needed the "redemption" story Dawson sold to them and craved the favorable media attention he showered upon them.

These are the ties that bind API, 1819 News, Kenneth Bryan Dawson, and their mega-donors together. To this cabal of morality police, Bubba Copeland was merely "road kill" as they sped toward an ultra-conservative, pro-family, free markets, and limited government policy-making destination.

Copeland's grieving family apparently did not matter to the crowd at API and 1819 News. Neither did the families of Dawsons crime victims.

True to his past, Kenneth Bryan Dawson has NOT apologized to the Copeland family for causing Bubba Copeland's death.

To me, Bubba Copeland was a kind and decent, but somewhat complicated human being. Yet, there was no justifable reason for Kenneth Bryan Dawson and his 1819 News team to force Copeland's suicide.

Copeland's death is a straight-forward case of "journalistic homicide." As such, a full-scale criminal investigation is warranted into Bubba Copeland's death, but it cannot be led by Attorney General Steve Marshall. He has an obvious conflict of interest in this probe.

Bubba Copeland will NOT be with his family this Thanksgiving Day! The least we can do on this special day is make sure the full story of Copeland's tragic death is told in his absence.



Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins

Where is Caleb Crosby, the Alabama Policy Institute's former president? Crosby's leadership and vision were credited for the formation and successful launch of Kenneth Bryan Dawson and 1819 News in Alabama. What's Crosby tie to Dawson? This entire mess with Dawson and his drug dealer history is much deeper than I first thought. Stay tuned!


Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins

I left the "dark side" of Kenneth Bryan Dawson's prison records out of this article. His "dark side" is too disturbing and inflammatory for a general public audience. There was a reason Dawson needed Anger Management classes to contain his rage.

I am firmly convinced that the Alabama Policy Institute knew exactly what it was getting in Kenneth Bryan Dawson. For this reason, the people affiliated with API used Dawson to advance their personal agendas. Dawson's presence on the state's media scene says more about these people than it does about him.

Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson

Mr. Watkins,

I disagree. I feel that we are not only able to handle the dark side of Dawson, the public has a right to know exactly what kind of creature he is.

You are more knowledgeable about Dawson than the rest of us. That thing put out information that killed a GOOD man. And he showed no restraint in "exposing" Mayor Copeland.

I think we, the general public can handle it.

It can't possibly be worse than the Afghanistan Withdrawl. And we watched that live and in color.

Chris Ann Ferguson


Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins

Many new agencies across America do not have the freedom and/or financial resources to perform kind of in-depth analysis of the tragic events that we undertook and completed in Bubba Copeland’s case. We have the journalistic and financial independence to find and report the truth, no matter who it helps or hurts. In Alabama, we have a huge advantage over other media companies for uncovering coverups and busting open sophisticated money laundering schemes. Both activities flourish in the state because there is a total and complete lack of aggressive “white collar” law enforcement by state and federal prosecutors against the oligarchs who run Alabama. Nobody was policing the shell games and money laundering schemes used in Bubba Copeland’s case…

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