The Lure Of Making Money Off Of Private Prisons Helped Brewer Pass SB1070

Tucson - NDN has been writing about the somewhat corrupt machinations behind the passage of SB1070 for some time, AZ Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio Charged Luxury Trips To County, Misused Up To $80 Million and AZ Governor Jan Brewer Awarded Contracts To Private Prisons Who Benefited From SB1070.

Now the story is starting to break nationally, with Laura Sullivans story in NPR, Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law:

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

It was of course State Senator Russell Pearce, who decided to the get the ball rolling on SB1070, not to by first taking his idea to the people of Arizona, but to prison lobbyists:

Instead of taking his idea to the Arizona statehouse floor, Pearce first took it to a hotel conference room.

It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.

It's a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce's idea took shape.

"I did a presentation," Pearce said. "I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, 'Yeah.'"

About all that is left out of that last statement, is an admission that he took money to push legislation that would overwhelmingly benefit some of those corporate members in attendance.

SB1070 was by all accounts an important bill for the Corrections Corporations of America:

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in "a significant portion of our revenues" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

"There were no 'no' votes," Pearce said. "I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation."

Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona's immigration law.

This of course led to future campaign contributions from prison companies who benefited from the law, directly to state law makers who supported the bill. Its a good thing Arizona is a clean election state...

At the state Capitol, campaign donations started to appear.

Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months, from prison lobbyists or prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group.

And of Course Governor Jan Brewers, Spokesman and Campaign Manager both are former Lobbyists for the prison companies:

Brewer has her own connections to private prison companies. State lobbying records show two of her top advisers — her spokesman Paul Senseman and her campaign manager Chuck Coughlin — are former lobbyists for private prison companies. Brewer signed the bill — with the name of the legislation Pearce, the Corrections Corporation of America and the others in the Hyatt conference room came up with — in four days.

More on this story as it develops