Governor Jan Brewer’s Commission on Privatization and Efficiency (COPE) announced it will be releasing a report recommending increased use of private prisons in Arizona as a way to address the budget crisis.
That’s right, a group of people handpicked by the Governor, whose top advisors are lobbyists for the for-profit prison industry, just recommended that we give more of our tax money to private prison companies.
And who are the “experts” the Governor has chosen for the task?
The Chair of the Commission is Mark Brnovich. Mr. Brnovich served as a Senior Director of State and Customer Relations for Corrections Corporation of America from 2005-2006 and was a lobbyist for them in 2007.
Also on the Commission are Robert Burns, outgoing President of the Senate, and Kirk Adams, Speaker of the House. Between 2008 and 2010, Adams received multiple campaign contributions from individuals associated with the GEO Group, and one donation from a person associated with CCA.
Burns is the Arizona Public Sector Chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and oversees ALEC’s Scholarship Fund, which “reimburses” legislators for the travel expenses incurred in attending ALEC’s events. At these events, the legislators are wined and dined by corporate lobbyists and are given a sales pitch on ALEC’s “model legislation,” such as SB1070.
Many of these same corporations make huge donations to the Scholarship Fund. This is how ALEC is able to disburse on average over a million dollars in travel, lodging and other expenses annually to state lawmakers, while simultaneously reporting zero expenditures for “payments of travel or entertainment expenses for any federal, state, or local public officials.” The donors to the Scholarship Fund are likewise able to remain anonymous and do not have to report this money as gifts to elected officials. Is it just me, or does this smell a lot like money laundering?
Yet another member of the Commission is Glenn Hamer, President and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Corrections Corporation of America is listed as a corporate member of the Arizona Chamber at the “Board Level.” According to the Chamber’s website, “Corporate membership provides varying levels of packaged benefits for membership within the Arizona Chamber.” The Board Level requires dues and other fees upwards of $10,000. This payoff entitles the corporation “higher levels of participation” and access to Chamber events.
It should be no surprise to anyone that this commission’s recommendations are to privatize everything. Its members are clearly beholden to these industries and have personally profited from them.
What is shocking is that anyone in the state of Arizona would take their recommendations seriously or view them as anything but a thinly veiled attempt to further enrich themselves and their corporate sponsors. The people of this state should be outraged that Brewer, Adams, Burns and their ilk would have the audacity to throw away millions more of our scarce tax dollars on an industry that has failed so spectacularly.