The NPR story inspired me this a.m. to look more closely at private prisons' political influence in Texas, and I plan to follow up with additional, related posts in the coming weeks. A 2006 public policy report (pdf) from the Institute on Money in State Politics identified Texas pols as the second largest recipient of private prison political spending after Florida.
The three big players in Texas' market are the GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and a company called Management and Training Corporation (MTC) out of Utah. Of the three, only the GEO Group operates a state-level PAC in Texas. CCA and MTC's contributions appear to come mainly from individuals associated with the company, which are a bit more time consuming to track, so let's start with the Geo Group.
I went through the contribution reports for the Texas Geo Group Inc. PAC for this last election cycle and compiled a list of all Texas House and Senate members who both a) received contributions from GEO in 2009 and/or 2010 and b) won their elections and will be in the Legislature next year. Here's that list, with totals combined from multiple reports:
House:In a pre-election post, Bob Libal at Texas Prison Bidness identified these additional donations from another entity, The GEO Group PAC, which I could not find on the Texas Ethics Commission website:
Byron Cook: $500
Charlie Geren: $500
John Zerwas: $250
Phil King: $500
Rob Orr: $500
Sid Miller: $500
Doug Miller: $1,000
Drew Darby: $1,000
Rob Eissler: $1,000
Brandon Creighton: $1,000
Garnet Coleman: $1,000
Jim Pitts: $2,000
John Otto: $1,000
Mike Hamilton: $1,000
Ralph Sheffield: $250
Rene Oliveira: $1,000
John Whitmire: $3,000
Juan Hinojosa: $2,000
Judith Zaffirini: $2,000
Bob Deuell: $1,000
Steve Ogden: $1,000
Glenn Hegar: $500
Florence Shapiro: $500
Robert Nichols: $1,000
Tommy Williams: $2,000
Carlos Uresti: $1,250
Gov. Rick Perry: $5,000GEO also gave money to a number of Democratic incumbents who failed to win reelection, and spread money around liberally in local races in Montgomery, Webb, and Val Verde counties, where the company has pressed local politicians to partner on detention facilities.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: $2,500
Sen. John Whitmire: $2,500
Notably, reports Texas Prison Bidness, the GEO Group has lost six contracts in recent years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, mostly to MTC.
In addition to campaign contributions, the GEO Group has hired a team of high-powered lobbyists in 2010 according to this list (xls) from the Ethics Commission:
- Michelle Wittenberg ($25,000 - $49,999)
- Lionel "Leo" Aguirre ($200,000 - $249,999)
- Luis E. Gonzalez (less than $10,000)
- Laura McPartland Matz (less than $10,000)
- William J. Miller ($25,000 - $49,999)
- Frank R. Santos ($50,000 - $99,999)
Some of these lobbyists are themselves large donors. Bill Miller of Hillco Partners is a frequent campaign contributor, mostly to incumbent legislators, and Luis Gonzalez gave $50,000 to Rick Perry's reelection campaign, according to followthemoney.org, dwarfing GEO's gubernatorial contribution.
Whether these insider advocates and GEO's campaign contributions can stem the company's recent losing streak regarding TDCJ contracts remains to be seen. But in 2009, the company's lobbyists demonstrated their clout by getting the conference committee on the state budget to include funding for a mental health facility in Montgomery County that neither chamber had previously approved, so these folks definitely have stroke.
See prior, related Grits posts: