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The News for June 22, 2018 – Migrant detention business profits, watchdog groups press embattled Pruitt

June 22, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

A series of reports following the immigrant family separation crisis created by the Trump administration is bringing to light how the migrant detention business is more profitable than you might think. WNYC reports, “We look at all the private companies profiting from detention — from companies actually running the facility, to those who provide food, telecom, construction, healthcare services, and everything in between. A recently-released report shows us the extent of the profits being made from privatizing the criminal justice system, which includes the immigration detention system.” OpenSecrets also analyzed money going to these companies and their political spending and lobbying to ensure the profits keep rolling in.

GEO Group alone made $2.26 billion dollars in 2017 across their private prison operations, including immigration detention centers. CNN picked up on a story that the CEO of Southwest Key Programs, which runs 26 immigrant shelters, “makes nearly $1.5 million a year, which makes him one of the highest paid charity CEO’s in the country.” Alex Kotch originally reported that this wealthy CEO had the audacity to ask staff for money to help fund the nonprofit’s operations that were making him rich.

And for all this money they are raking in, they are doing a terrible job. The Daily Beast reports that detention centers including those run by GEO Group are letting people die on their watch: “Half the people who died in ICE custody in recent years could potentially have been saved if they had just gotten adequate medical care, according to a new report from immigration advocacy groups.” One GEO facility is facing a lawsuit after allegedly subjecting detainees to forced labor.

Why are they getting away with it? No doubt because the lucrative private prison industry can afford to give generously to politicians to ensure the profits keep rolling in no matter how poor a job they do.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Sludge: Spouses of Congressional Staffers Are Lobbying Congress—and It’s Perfectly Legal
“The revolving door between Congress and K Street is well known in Washington. Plenty of U.S. representatives and senators leave office and join lucrative lobbying firms as quickly as they can. Some members of Congress are married to lobbyists, but thanks to 2007 legislation, those spouses are barred from lobbying their partners’ offices… However, congressional staffers are free from these kinds of restrictions. Top officials in the offices of numerous powerful members of Congress and congressional committees are married to people who are currently lobbying Congress, and there is neither a prohibition on this activity nor a disclosure requirement.”

Kantar Media: Facebook is sending you a friend request – via TV
Facebook is spending a staggering $1 million per day to win over the public: “You may have noticed Facebook running ads on TV with increased frequency recently. The social media platform has been investing heavily in winning back consumer trust following news about the Cambridge Analytica data breach and other scandals.”

The Columbian: In Our View: Shine Light on Political Ads
Editorial: “Knowledge of who is paying for political advertisements is a foundational principle of campaign transparency. Understanding who is attempting to influence voters and how much they have spent on those efforts is essential to creating an informed electorate.”

South Dakota War College: Received this envelope today from the Federal Election Commission…. but it wasn’t from the FEC
This is just weird: “Received this letter from “Lee Goodman – Chairman of the Federal Election Commission,” with a “Notice of information regarding Attorney General candidate Lance Russell.” But it wasn’t from the FEC. It was a campaign letter from a couple of Washington, DC area attorneys.”

Tampa Bay Times: Who funded this negative ad campaign in the Florida governor’s race? We may never know.
“An out of state SuperPAC that funded a negative television ad campaign in May in the Florida governor’s race disclosed who paid for the campaign in filings Wednesday. The answer? That same group’s 501(c)(4) branch — which doesn’t have to disclose its donors.”

Congress/Administration

The Nation: A World for All of Us, Not Just the Billionaires
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Quite simply, in the United States today, a handful of billionaires and the corporations they run exercise extraordinary power over our economic, political, and social life. Yet this is not just a domestic issue. It is a global issue, one that reaches across oceans and continents as oligarchy, authoritarianism, and kleptocracy spread from country to country, and democratic institutions fight for their survival… Internationally, we must have the courage to take on the global oligarchy and bring power to the many, not the few. This world belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”

New York Times: The Natural Gas Industry Has a Leak Problem
Under Scott Pruitt’s leadership, the Environmental Protection Agency took the energy industry-friendly move to roll back regulations to limit gas leaks and now we learn leaks are much higher than the EPA estimated.

ABC: Watchdog groups press embattled EPA chief Pruitt for transparency on legal defense fund
“Lawmakers and watchdog groups pressed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt Thursday to share details about his legal defense fund… A month has passed since Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen, Thomas Carper, Tom Udall, and Sheldon Whitehouse gave Pruitt 10 days to provide them with basic information about the legal defense fund, but the senators told ABC News that Pruitt has yet to respond. Government watchdog groups, including Public Citizen, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Every Voice and the Sunlight Foundation, released a letter Thursday urging the administrator to comply with the request.”

Congressional candidate MJ Hegar has a great new ad (it’s worth a watch) detailing her journey to running for office and her experience getting sidelined by Rep. John Carter because she wasn’t a donor: “Apparently being his constituent and a veteran wasn’t enough to get a meeting. I guess I also needed to be a donor… So now I’m running against him. Taking on a system that cares more about campaign donors and political parties than protecting our country.”

New York Times: For Democrats Challenging Party Incumbents, Insurgency Has Its Limits
Challengers continue to raise money-in-politics concerns: “Among the common themes have been criticizing where Congress members get their money and embracing unconventional tactics.”

Washington Post: National Enquirer sent stories about Trump to his attorney Michael Cohen before publication, people familiar with the practice say
As prosecutors look into whether Michael Cohen broke campaign finance laws, the plot thickens: “During the presidential campaign, National Enquirer executives sent digital copies of the tabloid’s articles and cover images related to Donald Trump and his political opponents to Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen in advance of publication, according to three people with knowledge of the matter — an unusual practice that speaks to the close relationship between Trump and David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company.”

States/Other

KJZZ: Blitz To Collect Final 40,000 Signatures Needed To Qualify Outlaw Dirty Money Measure
“Four years after dark money flowed into Arizona’s general election, the “Outlaw Dirty Money” measure is down to the wire gathering signatures needed to put it on the ballot.”

Tampa Bay Times: Putnam, DeSantis will accept publicly financed matching for campaign contributions
“The two Republican candidates running for governor in Florida have decided to accept public matching of campaign contributions, a program long criticized by conservatives as a taxpayer-funded freebie for politicians.”

IVN: Clean Elections: The Latest Victim of Party Politics in Maine
On Clean Elections in Maine: “It’s a great idea – you get local support and public financing, keeping big-money donors at bay and letting the power rest where it should, in the hands of the voting community. But this promise – a social contract with the people, big gobs of money out and local control in – is in jeopardy for the same reason our roads and bridges, health care, environment and education funding is in danger. There is partisan gridlock in Augusta, and this session has been particularly bad.”

Colorado Public Radio: Candidates Have Spent A Record $25 Million On Ads This Year. What Are They Saying?
“Candidates have spent $25 million on advertising, and Coloradans will have seen $13 million worth of TV ads by the end of this election cycle. It would take 24 days of consecutive viewing to watch all those 30-second commercials.”

Gotham Gazette: Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Hears Expert Testimony on Civic Engagement and Redistricting
Great to see leaders proactively seeking to expand civic engagement: “The charter revision commission convened by Mayor Bill de Blasio held its fourth and final issue-focused forum on Thursday afternoon at NYU, hearing testimony from experts on the city’s civic engagement efforts and hearing proposals for independent redistricting of City Council districts.”

Daily Freeman: Ulster County lawmaker steps up ‘pay to play’ allegations; Hein calls claims ‘baseless’
In New York lawmakers squared off over the need for limits to corporate influence: “The routine approval of a contract amendment turned into a debate over campaign finance reform and has ratcheted up a simmering feud between Ulster County Executive Michael Hein and freshman Legislator Joseph Maloney.”

News Republic: Sauk County Board approves referendum on money in politics
Sauk County will join the long list of localities in Wisconsin that have given voters the chance to have their say on whether we need a constitutional amendment to make clear money is not speech and corporations are not people.

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director

Every Voice and Every Voice Center have recently come under new leadership. We will be expanding and diversifying our efforts to promote a democracy that works for all of us and responds to the voices of everyday people. Watch this space for specifics later in 2019.