This Thursday, SB-1070, Arizona’s radical new immigration law, will go into effect. Despite an incoming lawsuit from the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has maintained that her state “will prevail,” claiming that she is simply defending the border integrity and safety of her state.
Yet a new investigation by local Arizona TV news station CBS 5 finds that the Brewer administration may have ulterior motives for its strong support of the new law. The station has found that “two of Brewer’s top advisers have connections” to private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
Paul Senseman, Brewer’s deputy chief of staff, is a former lobbyist for CCA. His wife continues to lobby for the company. Meanwhile Chuck Coughlin, who leads her re-election campaign, chaired her transition into the governorship, and is one of the governor’s policy advisors, is president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, which lobbies for CCA.
This is important because CCA currently “holds the federal contract to house detainees in Arizona.” CBS 5 notes that the company currently bills $11 million a month to the state of Arizona and that, if SB-1070 is successfully implemented, its profits would be significantly padded as it would take responsibility for imprisoning immigrants arrested by Arizona police.
The company maintains that it “unequivocally, did not at any time lobby — nor did we have any outside consultants lobby — anyone in Arizona on the immigration law,” but direct lobbying would not be necessary with allies like Senseman and Coughlin working directly for Brewer.
Coughlin, in particular, has a history of boasting about the influence he has had on the state government on behalf of private business. In an interview earlier this month, he bragged about privatizing the commercial garbage business in Mesa, Arizona, by coordinating with industry lobbyists. He told the interviewer, “I can make [expletive] happen.”
Perhaps even more alarmingly, he explained his influence over Brewer to the interviewer. Coughlin explained that when he worked for Gov. Fife Symington (R-AZ) as his chief lobbyist, he locked horns with Brewer, who was at the time the Senate majority whip. He explained that his lobbying was so effective that she now says, “I was scared of you guys” — and that he has run her campaigns ever since:
Q: You got to the Capitol not long after Jan Brewer. Have you known her since then?
COUGHLIN: We both have discussed that. We tried to remember when we first really met. We think we met — I’m fairly confident — when I worked for Grant and she was in the House. I was Grant’s lobbyist, because I left Bob’s (Bob Robb) firm and I went to work for Grant as his director of public affairs in ’91, after his election.
Where we really got to know each other well was years later when she was Senate majority whip and I was Fife’s chief lobbyist in ’95. She was the chief vote-counter in the Senate, and it was our job to get the governor’s agenda through, so I got to know her pretty well. Fife’s team had a fairly aggressive, robust reputation. She’ll say to this day, “I was scared of you guys,” that we’d come in and threaten her or something like that. I don’t recall that.
She called me after I left Fife’s employ in ’96 and started a firm called Coughlin Communications. We changed that to HighGround about four months later when Wes (Gullett) joined me. She came to me after that session and told me she wanted to run for county supervisor. We’ve run all her campaigns ever since.
CBS 5 filed a video report on CCA’s ties to the Brewer administration. Watch it: