Drug Addiction Good for Business –
April 28, 2018 – The biggest beneficiaries of private prisons’ political donations have been Republican politicians in Florida, Tennessee, and border states with high populations of undocumented immigrants. The Republic Party of Florida PAC has received nearly $2.5 million from GEO and CCA since 1989. In 2010, GEO and its affiliates pumped $33,500 into political action committees benefiting Florida Republicans, including the Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate PAC. Since 2009, GEO Group’s co-founder and chief executive, George Zoley, has personally donated $6,480 to Rubio. A 2011 investigative report published by The Center for Media and Democracy detailed the connections between Rubio and GEO during his time in the Florida House. It notes that Rubio hired Donna Arduin, a former trustee for GEO’s Correctional Properties Trust, as an economic consultant. Arduin worked with Rubio’s then-budget chief, Ray Sansom, who pushed through a $110 million deal for a new GEO prison in the House Appropriations Bill. The report also detailed how legislation favorable to GEO Group has shadowed Arduin’s presence in government from California to Florida. In 2011, Florida Gov. Rick Scott – who also used Arduin as a budget adviser – pushed (unsuccessfully) to privatize 27 prisons south of Orlando.
Upon winning the Senate seat, Rubio tapped former lobbyist Cesar Conda as his chief of staff in 2011. Conda had co-founded what is now GEO’s main lobbying firm, Navigators Global, and after joining Rubio, continued receiving payments of $150,000 from the firm as part of a stock buyout arrangement. In April 2014, Conda went on to lead Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC as a senior adviser, until recently rejoining Navigators. During Conda’s time with Rubio, GEO became a top-10 contributor to Reclaim America, giving $16,000 in 2014, according to OpenSecrets.org. Conda’s firm also banked $610,000 from the private prison company between 2011 and 2014 as its lobbying firm. According to a disclosure form obtained by The Nation, among the issues Navigators lobbied for on GEO’s behalf was immigration reform, an issue on which Rubio has remained dubious. In an e-mail responding to these issues, Conda said Navigators never lobbied for GEO’s prison business (he said the services were for GEO’s subsidiary, BI Incorporated, and the team working on it, which he wasn’t a part of, focused on homeland-security issues), and that he never met nor communicated with a Navigators lobbyist about GEO while working for Rubio, though he couldn’t speak for other members of senator’s staff.