A charity organization operated by an insurance company owner paid blogger K.B. Forbes more than $50,000 even as he denied repeatedly receiving cash or other payments from insurance companies for targeting hospitals, tax records obtained by APR show.
The Fairness Foundation, established by the late J. Patrick Rooney, owner of MSI Insurance and Forbes’ former employer, paid Forbes $52,000 directly in 2003 for “consulting.” That payment came two years after Forbes started the charity organization Consejo de Latinos Unidos — an organization whose purported objective is to protect the uninsured from high hospital charges, but one that many hospital groups and media outlets found to suspiciously benefit Rooney.
The tax filing, sent anonymously to APR, shows yet another clear connection between Forbes and Rooney, and raises more questions about the objectives of CDLU and Forbes, who has spent the last several months targeting the Balch & Bingham law firm and other Alabama businesses and officials.
The new direction for Forbes — going after a law firm and its clients — has spurred questions about his objectives and led to many elected officials quietly asking if the operation is intended to drive clients from the law firm or generate money for Forbes or CDLU.
Forbes has denied there is anything nefarious going on, and has instead claimed that his “Ban Balch” blog is merely going after a corrupt law firm that wronged his friend, attorney Burt Newsome.
However, in that blog, he also has written that it would have been easier for Balch to simply pay Newsome a settlement. He denied to APR ever seeking money in exchange for shutting down his blog, although numerous sources have told APR that such discussions were part of ongoing settlement talks between the law firm, Newsome and Forbes.
The payments to Forbes by Rooney in 2003 appear to fit a pattern of a thinly-veiled relationship between the two.
According to a story in Roll Call and another in Miami Herald and still another in the Orlando Sentinel, Forbes’ operation of his CDLU organization appeared to be tied directly to Rooney.
For example, Rooney’s relatively small insurance company allegedly owed Tenet Health millions of dollars in unpaid bills for clients. According to Business Week, CDLU went after Tenet in 2003 over the hospital’s collections practices, filing 10 lawsuits. However, according to the Business Week story, when Tenet agreed to forgive Rooney’s debt, CDLU dropped every lawsuit.
Forbes has admitted that Rooney provided him the startup money for CDLU — some $100,000 — but claims to have never used the money.
An investigation by Roll Call in 2005 found that Rooney had registered the domains for numerous websites that CDLU set up to attack hospitals, including two hospitals that were attempting to obtain back payments from Rooney’s insurance company. (Forbes claimed a “programmer” entered the wrong registrant when creating the websites.)
Those websites were suspiciously similar to the “Ban Balch” site that Forbes is now operating.
And the allegations of Forbes using the websites and his attacks to encourage businesses to make concessions, and alleged payments to Forbes, also aren’t new.
A Business Week story noted that in 2003 — the same year the Fairness Foundation paid him $52,000 — Forbes and CDLU went after Tenet Healthcare for overcharging patients, filing 10 lawsuits. After Tenet entered an agreement that, among other things, decreased the money Rooney’s MSI insurance company owed it, and agreed to pay for Forbes’ travel and pay him for speaking engagements, CDLU dropped all 10 lawsuits.
The agreement to pay Forbes directly was uncovered during a Congressional hearing, when Tenet’s CEO revealed details of the arrangement.