Of the major money spent by the private prison lobby in the 2016 election, some of it may have been illegal. A press release from Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., titled “CLC Lawsuit Demands DOJ Provide Documents Relating to Private Prison Company GEO and Trump Super PAC” had the story. The complaint alleges that “GEO Corrections Holdings Inc. broke the law by making the contribution, and Rebuilding America Now also violated the law by accepting it”.
Also according to the Campaign Legal Center they recently filed, “a letter with the FEC providing additional evidence that private prison company GEO Group illegally contributed a total of $225,000 to the Donald Trump-affiliated super PAC Rebuilding America Now, in violation of the 75-year-old ban on government contractors making political contributions”. From the press release:
Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a lawsuit demanding that the Department of Justice (DOJ) turn over documents relating to the private prison company GEO Group and a super PAC that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence the 2016 presidential election.
In 2016, GEO illegally contributed $225,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now. After President Trump was elected, his DOJ reversed the prior administration’s plans to phase out private prisons.
CLC has a pending complaint before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that GEO’s $225,000 contribution to Rebuilding America Now violated the prohibition on government contractors making political contributions, a 75-year-old law designed to prevent pay-to-play in the contracting process.
CLC also submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the DOJ to obtain documents that may shed light on what role GEO’s contributions played in the Trump Administration’s decision to resume funneling taxpayer dollars to private prison companies. CLC was granted expedited processing for its FOIA request but has not received any records from the DOJ, leading to today’s lawsuit.
“GEO made illegal contributions to influence the election, and now DOJ is refusing to release the documents that might show whether the Administration rewarded GEO for its illegal spending,” said Adav Noti, senior director, trial litigation and strategy at CLC, a former associate general counsel for policy at the FEC. “While we continue to wait for the FEC to hold GEO accountable, GEO seems to be reaping benefits from its illegal contribution, receiving a $110 million prison contract from the very same administration that is unlawfully withholding these documents.”
“GEO’s illegal six-figure contribution paid off with nine-figure taxpayer-funded contracts, creating the appearance or reality that government is for sale,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal and FEC reform at CLC. “This apparent pay-to-play is only the latest evidence that a campaign system bankrolled by corporations and billionaires means that policy decisions are too often guided by the interests of big donors rather than the public interest.”
Prior to filing this lawsuit, CLC sent a final letter to DOJ on May 22, 2017 requesting the agency immediately share the documents responsive to the FOIA request.
About the Campaign Legal Center:
The Campaign Legal Center, recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, is leading that charge today. Our mission is to improve our democracy and protect the fundamental right of all Americans to participate in the political process.
For nearly 15 years, we have been the leader in our vision for reform. We are home to the premier election law experts and we are the only organization in the field exclusively dedicated to working through the entire cycle of democracy reform. We conceptualize and advise on drafting of laws, we fight for enforcement of the laws once passed and we defend these laws when challenged. Through our work, we aim to ensure that every American has the right to fully participate in shaping the laws and policies that directly impact their lives.