Arizona’s Private Prison Pay-To-Play Scandal Widens: Chair of House Appropriations Committee Appropriated by Geo GroupWednesday, July 20th, 2011
Much has been made of Governor Brewer’s intimate ties to Corrections Corporation of America. Her Chief of Staff, Paul Senseman, is a former CCA lobbyist, and his wife is currently a lobbyist for the company. Brewer’s campaign manager and senior policy advisor, Chuck Coughlin, runs a consulting firm that also lobbies for CCA in Arizona. Brewer accepted a total of $60,000 in contributions from people associated with CCA for her campaign and the tax increase initiative that she was pushing last year. The scandal made waves after the passage of SB1070, raising questions about CCA’s role in drafting legislation that would potentially provide the company with millions more in contracts for immigrant detention facilities in Arizona.
But Brewer is hardly the only powerful politician in Arizona with ties to this influential industry. A Cell-Out Arizona investigation has revealed that John Kavanagh (R-8), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has accepted numerous campaign contributions from lobbyists and others associated with Geo Group, the nation’s second largest private prison company and one of the bidders for a contract to build and manage 5,000 new prison beds in Arizona.
Now we know why Kavanagh is such a staunch supporter of private prisons. He appeared last week on Phoenix Channel 8’s public affairs program, Horizon, debating the issue with Rep. Cecil Ash.
In the 2010 election cycle, Kavanagh accepted at least 6 donations from lobbyists associated with Geo Group. According to Beau Hodai’s investigation for In These Times,
“Geo Group employs consulting firm Public Policy Partners…While Public Policy Partners (PPP), an Arizona-based firm, has more than 30 Arizona clients, it only has two clients at the federal level: Geo Group (based in Florida) and Ron Sachs Communications, a Florida-based public-relations firm that, promotes prison privatization. PPP, as a firm, also appears to be an advocate for expanded use of private prisons. Federal lobbying records show PPP owner, John Kaites, lobbying on behalf of the firm on issues of “private correctional detention management.”
Kavanagh’s campaign finance reports show that he accepted money from John Kaites as well as Ann Peralta Kaites, John’s lovely wife. He received his-and-hers matching donations from another husband and wife team, Ken and Laurie Quartermain. Ken is a lobbyist for Public Policy Partners. Several other donations came from lobbyists with PPP.
It’s a shrewd move for Geo Group. Since CCA has bought the Governor’s office, the best way to get those lucrative contracts is to buy off the guy in charge of releasing the money for them—the Chair of Appropriations and outgoing Chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.