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Coincidental Corruption?

By The Reverend Published: September 26, 2011 on the nation's first state prison sold to a private company...

Lake Erie Correctional Institution in northeastern Ohio's Ashtabula County is the only one of five state prisons up for sale that will be sold, state officials said Thursday. Corrections Corporation of America will buy it for $72.7 million, more than the $50 million needed from the privatization effort to balance the state's prison budget.

The CCA said it plans to add 304 prison beds to the prison.

Pure coincidence, I'm certain.....but look who LittleJohn Kasich chose as one of his first appointments after he became Ohio's governor....

After John Kasich won the Ohio gubernatorial election last fall, one of his first appointments was Gary Mohr to be the state Director of Rehabilitation and Corrections. Prior to his appointment, Mohr worked as managing director for the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA),

Think Progress....

Though Mohr recused himself from the selection process of which corporation would buy the prison, Ohio lobbying records show that the CCA met with Mohr to lobby him just one month into Kasich’s tenure...

The AP on LittleJohn's, again, coincidental hiring of a CCA lobbyist.

(CCA's) Ohio lobbyist, Don Thibaut, served as Kasich's chief of staff when he was in Congress. The company retained Thibaut's new lobbying firm in mid-December. State prisons director Gary Mohr spent five years as a consultant to the firm.

You may find it interesting, or simply coincidental, that another lobbyist from CCA, Corrections Corporation of America helped put together the Arizona racial profiling law, SB1070.....

In April of this year, Pearce then introduced ALEC’s template as the infamous SB1070 law. Notably, the ALEC task force which helped Pearce devise his racial profiling law included Laurie Shanblum, a lobbyist from the mega-private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which previously played a role in privatizing many of Texas’ prisons. An investigation from Arizona’s KPHO-TV found more ties between SB1070 and the private prison industry: Paul Senseman, Gov. Janet Brewer’s (R-AZ) deputy chief of staff was a former lobbyist for CCA (his wife is still a lobbyist for CCA) and Chuck Coughlin, Brewer’s campaign chairman, runs the lobbying firm in Arizona that represents CCA.

It's not only in Ohio and Arizona where CCA lobbyists are, surely by pure coincidence, pushing for stricter immigration laws.....similar efforts by CCA have been going on in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Colorado and Florida.

CCA is set to receive well over $74 million in tax dollars in FY2010 for running immigration detention centers. In a presentation given earlier this year, Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund with a large financial stake in CCA, suggested that CCA’s profitability depends on increasing numbers of immigrants sent to prison. Many of the legislators helping to earn CCA more profits with radical anti-immigrant bills mirroring SB1070 have been recipients of private prison industry cash or have worked closely with the CCA-funded ALEC organization.

And of course, the common denominator here

According to JPI (Justice Policy Institute), the private prison industry uses three strategies to influence public policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking. The three main companies have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts. CCA has spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO spent anywhere from $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span this year. Meanwhile, “the relationship between government officials and private prison companies has been part of the fabric of the industry from the start,” notes the report. The cofounder of CCA himself used to be the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

Summarizing: For-profit, private prison corporations donate millions to the campaigns of specific state legislators......$6 million to be another $835,514 to federal candidates. Then, there are all of the expensive lobbying efforts by these same private prison corporations...

CCA has spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO spent anywhere from $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span this year.

As a result...or perhaps only by coincidence, state legislators push new and stricter state immigration laws. The stricter immigration laws mean more "customers" for these for-profit, private prison corporations. In Ohio, a 'too close to be coincidental' relationship between Governor LittleJohn Kasich and CCA lobbyists meant the first state sale of a prison to a private enterprise.

To me, all of this looks like corruption. Campaign cash and lobbyists influence lawmakers to pass laws that are advantageous to private prison corporations. New and often radical state immigration laws are proposed and, sometimes, passed.....laws which primarily mean more prison customers, and therefore, more profit for private prison corporations.

This is a prime example of how our democratic process has been perverted by money. Wall Street outfits, like Pershing Square Capital, invest in for-profit prison corporation stock. In order for public corporations, like Corrections Corporation of America (CXW...common stock) to make more profit, states need to supply the prisons with more new customers. Private prison corporations lobby lawmakers to write new laws guaranteeing private prisons and detention centers get new customers in order to make continued profits.

That is how money in politics corrupts democracy. The sad part is that CCA is but a tiny speck in the corruption sewer we call our legislative process.

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