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Private prison corporations hiring well-connected lobbyists in Texas

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In the wake of NPR's story that Corrections Corporation of America played a major role in writing Arizona's controversial "show-me-your-papers" immigration law, we posted a list of campaign contributions that private prison corporations made in Texas in the run-up to last month's election. 

Now that the election is over, we thought we'd take a look at who is lobbying for private prison corporations here in Texas.  This was of particular interest as it has also been reported that CCA lobbyists have been political advisors to Arizona governor Jan Brewer.

According to the Texas Ethics Commission, here is the list of lobbyists working for private prison corporations thus far in 2010.  It should be noted that lobbyists in Texas report a range of fees they may draw from their clients, thus the "Low" and "High" numbers. 

Company Lobbyist Name Low
CCA Lara Laneri Keel $50,000.00 $99,999.99
CCA Michael Toomey $25,000.00 $49,999.99
The GEO Group Frank R. Santos $50,000.00 $99,999.99
The GEO Group Luis E. Gonzalez $0.00 $9,999.99
The GEO Group Laura McPartland Matz $0.00 $9,999.99
The GEO Group
Lionel "Leo" Aguirre $200,000.00 $249,999.99
The GEO Group
William J. Miller $25,000.00 $49,999.99
The GEO Group
Michelle Wittenburg $25,000.00 $49,999.99
MTC Allen Place $25,000.00 $49,999.99
Avalon William G. "Billy" Phenix $0.00 $9,999.99
Avalon Walter Fisher $50,000.00 $99,999.99
Total   $450,000.00 $779,999.89

The overall number isn't as large as in 2007, but this isn't a year the legislature meets, so we'll probably see a ramp-up next year.

The GEO Group had by far the largest expenditures on state lobbying, spending between $300,000 and $470,000 already this year.  (Here, I've included figures reported by Cornell, which was the third largest private prison corporation until it was purchased by GEO this year).  More than half of that, and more than a quarter of all private prison lobbying money spent in 2010 in Texas, was paid to Leo Aguirre, the widower of Lena Guerrero, former Texas Railroad Commissioner.

Corrections Corporation of America spent less than GEO, between $75,000 and $150,000, but hired two powerful lobbyists in Mike Toomey and Lara Laneri Keel.  Toomey is a former state representative and chief of staff for two governors - Rick Perry and Bill Clements.  Keel married the cousin the cousin of former state representative Terry Keel. Both are lobbyists with the Texas Lobby Group.

Management and Training Corporation hired only one lobbyist in 2010Allen Place, a Gatesville attorney and former state representative chaired the House Committee on Jurisprudence during the boom in prison building the 1990s, was paid between $25,000 and $50,000 by MTC in 2010.

We'll keep you posted on how these expenditures affect legislation in the spring. 

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