The largest private prison company in the nation may have made an illegal donation to New Republican PAC, a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) campaign for Senate, according to an investigative report by MapLight in collaboration with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
In April, the Boca Raton-based GEO group donated $125,000 to New Republican PAC through a company subsidiary. Campaign finance experts claim the donation violates a longstanding 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. “You can’t let subsidiaries get around what is illegal for the parent corporation to do. Otherwise you just essentially throw the law out.”
GEO group operates 141 prisons in the country and is the biggest contractor of U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (ICE), with $471 million — nearly half of $1 billion — in federal ICE contracts. Some of the largest and most dangerous ICE detention centers are operated by GEO. The GEO facility outside of Los Angeles, Adelanto Detention Center, was named the “deadliest ICE detention center of 2017,” after a third immigrant died in the facility’s custody in 2017.
“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.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has accused the organization of torturing detainees in Arizona. According to the filing, Iraqi nationals who joined the ACLU’s class action law-suit to stop their deportation were repeatedly denied food, water, and access to the restroom.
Despite Scott’s previous comments that “I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families,” GEO runs the Broward Transition Center, in the very state Scott is running to represent in the Senate.
As ThinkProgress has reported previously, the Broward Detention Center is a “low-level” facility for immigrants who have committed no crimes at all, or minor crimes like traffic offenses.
A mother of three is currently detained at the facility after having voluntarily paid a traffic ticket at the Martin County Jail. She was held at the jail, even after paying a $750 bond, until ICE agents came to transport her to the ICE facility. Another mother was detained in Broward after checking in with ICE agents about her valid work visa.