For years, the Democratic attack against Republicans has had a mantra to convince the voters that one side is bought: “Follow the money!”
Some of us actually do.
When it comes to private prisons and the border boondoggle that comes with it, both sides seem to enjoy the cash that comes from the industry, and the Texas Observer posted an article which outlines how much money the Dems have received in recent times.
Now, no doubt, Republicans have enjoyed more of the cash, but that’s not the point, right? And this is a national problem as even Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and other nationally known Democrats are known to have taken tons of that cash. Some of these national Dems are even publicly calling out the warehousing of children while still taking that cash. When they start showing up at rallies, well, some of us get a bit annoyed.
In Texas, though, the private prison industry is huge. Corporations like GEO and CORECivic (Corrections Corporation of America) have been hired by the state government to house inmates, along with being hired by the feds to warehouse detained migrants. Some even run the “family residential centers” that have housed migrant families–and not just by Trump.
And the way some of these work: Local government builds facility; locals give contract to private prison company to run it; private prison gets contract from state or feds; State and Feds ignore complaints about treatment of inmates, lack of health services, etc. It’s a vicious cycle in which multiple levels of politicians earn some easy campaign cash.
Needless to say, the list includes some of Texas’ favorite Democrats, such as former State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. I remember she supported the Texas DPS border surge that is still ongoing and costly. Then I see our own current Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner having received some cash when he was in the Lege. No surprise, there are also “border” representatives like Judith Zaffirini, Tracy King and others who enjoy, or have enjoyed, private prisons as some of the biggest employers in their districts, so, their support kept those private jails filled to the max.
Others on the list have been champions of offender second chances and sentencing reform for poor offenders who can’t pay fines.
I’m sure they’ll have their reasons for taking the checks. Some may just call them “unsolicited” contributions. Current candidate for State Senate (SD19) Roland Gutierrez is one of those and is donating his $250 to a good cause. [Update: Gutierrez has accused his opponent Pete Gallego of accepting a $5,000 contribution from private prison giant GEO Group; however, further research has found that during the 2013-2014 campaign season, Gallego accepted over $12,000 from GEO and Corrections Corporation of America.] But whether it’s now, when children and families are being locked up in these freezers, or whether “back when” the state of Texas was in a run-up to locking up every low-level offender to fill official and rented jail space, it’s always been wrong to support these badly run facilities.
But, there is a quick-fix! If a check was received, donate it! MALDEF, Grassroots Leadership, Texas ACLU and others are assisting in representing and bonding out detained migrants. Put this bad money to good use. Thankfully, it’s not as much as Greg Abbott, who has a price tag hanging out his hind-side for just about any right-wing interest. And, then, never take a dirty check again.
Remember the question posed by the Observer: Could it become a liability for Democrats? For most of these Dems in safe districts, probably not. For former Lege members who are now high-paid lobbyists, even less. For Dems as a whole, well, the Republicans are already playing their strategy of “they did it too!” The Republicans are lock-and-goose-step supportive of the money and locking up immigrants and citizens, alike, but when the Democrats make statements against the latest Republican anti-immigrant policy while holding a check from the industry, well, it just looks bad.