Two interesting pieces here regarding the influence the private prison industry wield in its political affiliations and activities. Most of the reason the industry has been so successful in securing contracts despite decades of failing to perform is the cozy relationship it has cultivated with state and federal officials who control the disbursement of public funds and criminal justice sentencing. They cultivate these relationships through donating to individual politicians and various campaigns they embark upon, but also through hiring professional lobbyists to promote their will while the legislature is in session.
Lobbyists often have great access to politicians, and in many cases either come directly from government or head there after leaving the lobbying business. By utilizing lobbyists to advocate for their interests, the private prison industry is able to simultaneously amplify their voice within the legislature, and to some extent prevent the public from knowing just exactly who and what is influencing political decisions.
In Arizona, for example, I have reported extensively on the ties between Governor Brewer’s office and a huge lobbying firm that works for CCA, Highground Consulting. Highground’s manager, Chuck Coughlin, is the governor’s chief of staff, and one of its principal lobbyists used to work for CCA (and his wife still does). To make the situation worse, the chair of the state’s appropriations committee (that would be the committee that controls public funds), John Kavanagh, looks to be quite close with the GEO Group, the country’s second-biggest private prison company. Public Policy Partners, an Arizona lobbying firm that GEO employs, donated at least 6 times to Kavanagh in the last election.
Is it any wonder this is the same state that passed an immigration bill that’s essentially a handout to private prison companies, or that they’re looking to privatize an additional 5,000 prison beds?
Meanwhile, over in Tennessee, state Republican representatives are coming under fire for participating in a fundraiser while the legislature was in session, that featured some of the biggest industries with a financial stake in Tennessee’s politics (fundraisers during the legislative session are supposed to be illegal). Among the businesses represented was CCA, which is headquartered in Nashville. They were so willing to help raise funds for state Republicans because the new Republican governor recently used the budget as an excuse to reverse a decision to close a CCA prison.
crossposted from Pay to Play