ABC News Producer Was Allegedly Paid Thousands By Lobbying Firm

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James Lynch Contributor
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Former ABC News producer Kristen Hentschel allegedly used her credentials to undermine politicians while receiving thousands of dollars from a political lobbying firm, according to a new report.

Hentschel primarily worked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” as a freelance producer and used her ABC ties to gain access to Florida politicians, according to NPR. She was on the payroll of Alabama-based lobbying firm Matrix LLC while she was reporting on issues directly involving the companies funding Matrix, the outlet reported.

Hentschel was paid $7,000 by Matrix in July 2018, when she confronted Toby Overdorf, a Republican candidate for Florida’s state legislature, about 20 dead tortoises found dead at a construction project Overdorf worked on, according to the report.

She allegedly used her ABC News business card to gain access to Overdorf, who told Hentschel he did not know what she was talking about. A local investigation found no tortoises were at the construction site. (RELATED: DeSantis Proposal Will Make Educators Decide If Teachers’ Unions Are ‘Really Worth The Money,’ Experts Say)

The video was later posted to the website of the Center for Sustainability and Conservation, a Matrix backed organization that listed Hentschel as its media contact, NPR reported. Hentschel allegedly used similar tactics on other environmentally friendly Florida politicians while on Matrix’s payroll, according to the outlet.

“Kristen Hentschel was a freelance daily hire who never worked for ABC News on the political stories referenced in the NPR article,” ABC said in a statement. “She does not currently work for ABC News,” the network added.

She was first hired by Matrix in 2016, right before she started as a freelance producer for ABC News. The network was informed of Hentschel’s activities two years ago by Florida Republican Rep. Brian Mast, after Hentschel confronted him at his residence, NPR reported.

Rep. Mast was working on legislation to strengthen water quality, which was directly at odds with Florida’s sugar industry, NPR said. He was criticized by Florida news site The Capitolist for his positions, a Matrix-backed conservative publication.

Matrix charged sugar conglomerate Florida Crystals and utility company Florida Power & Light for the payments to Hentschel, according to company records obtained by NPR.

Both companies have pushed back against environmental legislation that could adversely affect Matrix’s clients. It’s unclear if the companies were aware of Hentschel’s reporting, NPR said.