In addition to Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is turning to lobbyists for the two biggest private prison companies in the country, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, to raise money for her 2016 presidential candidacy.
Lee Fang of The Intercept made the discovery after examining Clinton's list of lobbyists who are bundlers for her presidential bid, released last week. Bundlers are people who raise money for campaigns by organizing and collecting contributions from other donors.
Among those funneling money into Clinton's campaign are:
- Richard Sullivan of the firm Capitol Counsel, documented lobbyist for GEO Group.
- Five employees of lobbying and law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which received $240,000 from CCA last year.
- "Akin Gump lobbyist and Clinton bundler Brian Popper disclosed that he previously helped CCA defeat efforts to compel private prisons to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests," noted Fang.
Critics say the fresh evidence of Clinton's ties to lobbyists for the private prison industry raises a host of new concerns.
"The future of both criminal justice reform and immigration are critical for private prison firms," notes Fang. "The Geo Group, in a disclosure statement for its investors, notes that its business could be 'adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws.'"
CCA and GEO have spent millions of dollars to press the U.S. government to impose harsher immigration laws that, in turn, spike corporate profits by driving up incarceration levels at their detention centers. Both companies stand accused of egregious human rights abuses at their facilities, from denial of mental and physical health care to inadequate nutrition.
"Private prisons have a long and well-documented history of giving to candidates of all levels and both parties and hiring lobbyists across the spectrum, so it doesn't surprise me that prisons are trying to get in good with presidential candidates," Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based organization that opposes prison profiteering, told Common Dreams.
"We already know that, in the immigration system, private prisons have a huge and outsized influence and they certainly don't need any more," Parker added. "It is bad for all of us when these multibillion dollar companies use their considerable financial influence to try to pressure lawmakers."