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Can Texas Politicians Say No To Private Prison Money?

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Students at Florida Atlantic University, where GEO Group tried to buy naming rights to the football stadium, have started a campaign to get Florida Democrats to pledge not to accept money from the for-profit prison company.  The Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Palm Beach County has put their support behind and released an official statement:

"Whereas, the GEO Group, a private prison contractor headquartered in Boca Raton, FL, has a history of human rights violations and abuses at its detention facilities in the U.S. and abroad, including sexual abuse, negligent deaths, and solitary confinement of minors [...]

Be it resolved, that the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Palm Beach County urges the Florida Democratic Party and Democratic Party elected officials and candidates to not accept any campaign donations from the GEO Group or its business and political affiliates."

Nearly half of GEO Group's lobbying dollars have gone to Florida candidates and PACs (about $2.1 million out of $4.5 million).  However, the lions share of that -- $1.9 million, to be exact -- have gone to the Republican Party of Florida, and about $80,700 to former governor Charles Crist.  The Florida Democratic Party has received $229,100; only one Democratic candidate, State Representative Bobby Powell, has received money from GEO Group, to the tune of $500.  The pledge would largely be a symbolic move for Florida Democrats, but as Michael Sotelo, Vice President of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Palm Beach County, said in a statement, the boycott would

"send a message to the Democratic Party that if they're serious about immigration reform and the Hispanic vote, they should not be taking money from a company that profits off the incarceration and persecution of immigrants."

Texas candidates have received much less -- a little over $100,000 since 2003 -- according to a search on FollowTheMoney.org.  Sixty seven candidates have taken money from GEO; Governor Rick Perry received the most, at $11,000.  Corrections Corporation of America, GEO's largest competitor, gave Perry $20,000 out of the $23,000 it's given to four Texas candidates (all Republicans) since 2004.  As we covered earlier this year, both GEO and CCA also have spent hundreds of thousands paying lobbyists to shill private prisons to Texas legislators.

As momentum behind the pledge picks up, we have to ask: if Florida politicians are willing to turn their back on private prison money, can Texans follow suit?

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