Corruption at the Arizona Capitol

Kavanagh for the kleptocracy of the “Kochtopus” is a tool for ALEC’s private prison industry project. But you already knew that Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) is corrupt. Arizona private prisons may get extra $1 million:

arizona_legislature_11274934985Private-prison lobbyists succeeded in getting state lawmakers to include nearly $1 million in extra funding in the state budget even though the Arizona Department of Corrections says the money isn’t needed.

The eleventh-hour funding was placed into the budget by House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who said GEO Group Inc. lobbyists informed him the company wasn’t making enough money from the emergency beds it provides Arizona at prisons in Phoenix and Florence.

The request came even though GEO bid for its contracts and had agreed to previously negotiated rates with the Corrections Department, which guarantees the company nearly 100 percent occupancy at its prisons.

“This is somebody getting a handout,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said. “It’s unnecessary. This came out of nowhere — I mean that. No one said a word about it. It wasn’t in the Senate budget, it didn’t come as a request from DOC. There’s something really shady here.”

Doug Nick, a state Corrections spokesman, confirmed his agency did not seek additional money for GEO.

“We did not request it,” Nick said. “We had nothing to do with it.”

* * *

The additional money for GEO comes as lawmakers debate a $9.2 billion budget passed by the House late Thursday night.

The $900,000 for GEO was one of many additions made to get the support of some holdout Republicans.

Democratic lawmakers criticized the spending proposal, saying private prisons are being prioritized over education.

Caroline Isaacs, a watchdog on prison spending and the program director for the American Friends Service Committee, called the additional funding “outrageous.”

* * *

Isaacs said lawmakers appear more concerned about padding GEO’s bottom line instead of looking out for public education and abused children who have fallen through the cracks at Child Protective Services.

* * *

Kavanagh declined to identify the lobbyists who asked him for additional money for GEO. State lobbying records show that Pivotal Policy Consulting represents GEO. [Does it really matter?]

Then there is Rep. David Stevens (R-Sierra Vista) who is trying to fix a contract for his favorite lobbyist as well. $3B contract dispute roils budget deal:

Days before a new company is to take over a $3 billion mental-health contract, the losing bidder orchestrated a last- minute attempt to have the Legislature derail the contract.

The maneuver by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, on behalf of Magellan Health Services, got cellphones buzzing, sent rules attorneys scurrying to the floor of the House of Representatives and held up final work on the House budget package late Thursday night.

In the end, the House reversed its earlier decision and rejected Stevens’ ploy to force a re-bid of the contract, which serves 75,000 children and adults with mental-health and substance-abuse problems in Maricopa County.

But the issue is not dead: Stevens and Magellan supporters said they will push their case in the Senate, where the budget debate now turns [on Monday].

The timing is tight. On Tuesday, the behavioral-health-services contract switches to Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, which won the bid last year. Magellan had held the contract since 2007.

* * *

Magellan argues its rival violates state law because it provides mental-health services and also administers the program through managed care. It made that argument, unsuccessfully, to a state administrative law judge last year and has taken its case to Maricopa County Superior Court.

With legal proceedings moving slowly, Magellan turned to the Legislature for relief. Stevens introduced his amendment around 9 p.m. Thursday, and it quickly won approval on a voice vote.

Then work came to a halt as Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, and other GOP leaders huddled behind closed doors.

“I didn’t see it coming,” said Jaime Molera, one of Mercy Maricopa’s lobbyists. “No one has talked about it. If you have to be stealthy in order to do this, your idea is not very strong.”

The issue did not surface last week, when the Senate got the budget process rolling. And it didn’t come up early in the session because, Kaites said, he didn’t want to tip his hand and unleash a corps of Mercy Maricopa lobbyists.

Now that the issue it out in the open, Kaites said, “it’s a very important opportunity for the Legislature to focus on this issue.”

Molera agrees.

“They did their Pearl Harbor attack,” he said. “But just like Pearl Harbor, they have awakened a sleeping giant.”

Molera said the Stevens’ amendment on behalf of Magellan is unconstitutional because, among other things, it would violate the separation of powers by allowing the Legislature to intervene on a contract award that is an executive-branch duty.

* * *

Molera said the effort could set what he believes to be a harmful precedent.

“Every time a company loses a bid in the competitive process, is this going to be an issue in the Legislature?” he asked. That could result in costly lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the transition between the two providers is scheduled to happen on Tuesday.

This is what happens when an informed and engaged citizenry are not watching their legislators like a hawk at all times and holding them accountable. Pay attention people! Your corrupt legislators are cutting deals with corporate lobbyists — check their campaign finance disclosure statements from now to November to see how they benefit (possibly a lobbyist job of their own).

One response to “Corruption at the Arizona Capitol

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