Jul 27, 20222 min
One industry consulting firm has influenced politics across Florida, Alabama and at least six other states
Terry Dunn, who was a Republican electricity regulator at Alabama’s Public Service Commission, wanted to examine why Alabama Power charged some of the highest rates in the country. Then he started facing attacks in the right-wing press and online. In 2014, he lost his re-election campaign. [Joe Songer/Floodlight]
By Mario Alejandro Ariza and Miranda Green for Floodlight and Annie Martin and for Orlando Sentinel
The CEO of the biggest power company in the U.S. had a problem. A Democratic state senator was proposing a law that could cut into Florida Power & Light’s profits. Landlords would be able to sell cheap rooftop solar power directly to their tenants—bypassing FPL and their monopoly on electricity.
“I want you to make his life a living hell....seriously,” FPL’s CEO Eric Silagy wrote in a 2019 email to two of his vice presidents about State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, who proposed the legislation.
Within minutes, one of them forwarded the directive to the CEO of Matrix, LLC, a powerful but little-known political consulting firm that has operated behind the scenes in at least 8 states.
Rodríguez was ousted from office in the next election. Matrix employees spent heavily on political advertisements for a candidate with the same last name as Rodríguez, who split the vote. That candidate later admitted he was bribed to run.
Hundreds of pages of internal documents–which are only coming to light now because Matrix’s founders are locked in an epic feud–detail the firm’s secret work to help power companies like FPL protect their profits and fight the transition to cleaner forms of energy.
The Matrix saga illustrates the political obstacles policymakers and experts face as they attempt to cut climate pollution from the power sector, one of the biggest greenhouse gas contributors in the U.S.