Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been outed as having possibly received an illegal campaign donation from the largest private prison company in the country.
According to Think Progress, the GEO Group — which is based in Boca Raton — donated $125,000 to New Republican PAC, a super PAC that supports Scott’s Senate campaign, through a company subsidiary.
Although the money didn't come directly from the GEO Group, finance experts maintained that the donation is still in violation of a long-established ban on political contributions by federal contractors.
“In my book, this is a violation of the pay-to-play law,” said Craig Holman, an ethics advocate at Public Citizen told MapLight, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics.
He added: “You can’t let subsidiaries get around what is illegal for the parent corporation to do. Otherwise you just essentially throw the law out.”
According Maplight, the subsidiary that donated to New Republican PAC, GEO Acquisition II, does not seem to receive federal funding. However, it may still be involved with federal contract work because it is a general partner and full owner of CPT Operating Partnership LP, which is another subsidiary that owns centers in several states that process detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the United States Marshals Service.
“By all appearances, GEO Acquisition II directly or indirectly derived its revenue from federal contracts and should be subject to the contractor contribution ban,” said Brendan Fischer, a lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center.
The GEO Group operates 141 prisons in the country and is the biggest contractor of ICE with $471 million in federal ICE contracts. Taking money from this company or any of its subsets is a contradiction to Scott’s previous claims that, “I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families.”
In fact, the Adelanto Detention Center outside of Los Angeles, which was ranked the “deadliest ICE detention center of 2017,” is a GEO Group facility.
“Adelanto is notorious for its substandard medical care. A government investigation in 2015 forced GEO Group to turn over its medical unit to Correct Care Solutions (CCS), but nothing has improved. In fact, CCS’s CEO is a former VP at GEO Group. If the federal government is unwilling to shut down Adelanto, it is time for California to cut ties with private immigration detention facilities by passing the Dignity Not Detention Act,” said Christina Fialho, a California-based attorney and co-executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), in a statement.
GEO also runs the Broward Transition center, which is conveniently located right in Florida — where Scott is currently the governor and is running to represent in the Senate.
Let's face it: President Donald Trump's crackdown on immigration is about much more than keeping immigrants out of the country. The detention of migrants is a lucrative business, and as the old saying goes, when you're looking to expose corruption, "follow the money."