Even though unelected Governor Brewer’s ties to the private prison industry are well documented, I believe most people don’t know the full extent lobbyists played in crafting Arizona’s radical immigration law dubbed SB1070. NPR did a story today on just how Brewer’s favorite industry has been plotting their state-funded illegal immigration pay off for years. Lobbyists literally wrote the law word for word then let Russell Pearce sign his name before pushing it on the people of Arizona. Follow the money people.
Below is a chart linking the private prison industry to Arizona legislatures, some key points and the full audio of this morning’s story.
Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.
Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.
"The gentleman that's the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger," Nichols said. "He's a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman."
What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.
"They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community," Nichols said, "the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate."
But Nichols wasn't buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?
"They talked like they didn't have any doubt they could fill it," Nichols said.
NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill was his idea. He says it's not about prisons. It's about what's best for the country.
But instead of taking his idea to the Arizona statehouse floor, Pearce first took it to a hotel conference room.
In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.
"There were no 'no' votes," Pearce said. "I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation."
Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona's immigration law.
They even named it. They called it the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act."
Pearce said he is not concerned that it could appear private prison companies have an opportunity to lobby for legislation at the ALEC meetings.
"I don't go there to meet with them," he said. "I go there to meet with other legislators."
Pearce may go there to meet with other legislators, but 200 private companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to meet with legislators like him.
As soon as Pearce's bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC's influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.
Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months, from prison lobbyists or prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group.
Brewer has her own connections to private prison companies. State lobbying records show two of her top advisers — her spokesman Paul Senseman and her campaign manager Chuck Coughlin — are former lobbyists for private prison companies. Brewer signed the bill — with the name of the legislation Pearce, the Corrections Corporation of America and the others in the Hyatt conference room came up with — in four days.
Brewer and her spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
UPDATE: Pearce responds.