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What’s a Politician Cost?



by Bob Pelshaw

The Washington Post article “How For-Profit Prisons Have Becomes The Biggest Lobby No One Is Talking About” published April 28, 2015 confirmed that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO, the two largest for-profit prison companies, collectively have donated $10 million to politicians, not just Rubio, since 1989. They also spent $25 million lobbying politicians since 1989.

I’m assuming this number only accounted for monies given directly to candidates, and not their Political Action Committees (PACs). Who knows how large that number is? This makes the private prison lobby a very powerful force in the political arena, up there near big oil and the NRA.

Federal election regulations limit the amount of donations private citizens and corporations can give directly to any candidate. Most politicians are skirting getting around that by having Political Action Committees (PACs) raise and spend money on their behalf. There used to be limits on the amount of funds that could be funneled that way, but the rules were lifted by the Obama administration early in the first term.

Here’s what the Washington Post reported on Rubio:

The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO received a state government contract for a $110 million prison. This occurred soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust.

Marco Rubio has the distinction of being the recipient of the most campaign contributions from private prisons, having received $40,000 in campaign contributions from GEO as of April 2015.

Funny, I thought politicians were more expensive than that. The sad thing is: how can anyone truly get fair judgement when big companies’ profit depends on a growing flow of people being incarcerated? Recently a judge was sentenced to prison after being convicted for receiving millions in bribes for sending young blacks to prison. They are overturning about 4,000 cases this judge ruled on because of it.

I’m a capitalist, and I don’t mind anyone making money, but not at the devastating cost that incarceration extracts on families and society. A felony conviction is a life sentence in the job market, forever keeping us from the best jobs. That’s why I advocate us starting our own businesses, start hiring people, and start building political influence to change the system.

We can’t expect the system that created the problems to fix it. That’s something we must do. We have to do it before the for-profit prisons buy enough politicians to perpetuate the poverty to prison pipeline, and the catastrophically high 75% recidivism plaguing our country.

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