Kavanagh’s attempt to slip a cool $900,000 sweetener to GEO Group, Inc. into the House budget luckily was stripped out of the budget by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday. Now the corrupt Kavanagh is receiving much deserved bad press in the Arizona Republic. Arizona Senate tweaks House budget:
Arizona lawmakers continued wrangling Monday over the state budget, as the Senate stripped out some spending that was vital to winning House support last week for the $9.2 billion proposal.
Most prominent among the items sliced from the budget was an additional $900,000 for private prisons.
Funds for private prisons earmarked for GEO Group Inc. were removed following an uproar of criticism.
The state is expected to pay the company $45 million this fiscal year for providing minimum- and medium-security beds in Phoenix and Florence.
The company’s contracts with the state guarantee at least a 95 percent occupancy rate, virtually ensuring the company a profit for operating its prisons in Arizona.
House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who has received campaign contributions from GEO executives, sought the extra money for the company.
Kavanagh said that the company, based in Florida, had done the state a “big favor” by providing emergency private-prison beds at a discount during the Great Recession and that the company wanted to be financially restored.
“I didn’t see a problem in giving them a small increase,” Kavanagh said. “If you don’t treat people fairly, they won’t treat you fairly in the future.”
Kavanagh said he did not know if he would try to restore the funding once the budget returns to the House.
GEO’s lobbying firm, Pivotal Policy Consulting, approached Kavanagh directly about getting additional funds even though GEO had agreed to contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections that did not seek more money.
Kavanagh said Monday that lobbyist Kristen Boilini sought the additional money for the company. Boilini did not return calls seeking comment.
State campaign-finance records show that six GEO executives, including CEO George Zoley, gave Kavanagh’s campaign committee a combined $2,544 in 2012.
[Which means that Kavanagh can be bought dirt cheap.]
Kavanagh said that it is common for individuals who share the same political ideology as candidates to contribute to their campaigns and that he receives contributions from numerous people.
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, sent a letter on Monday to House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, calling for an investigation into the private-prison proposal. [Read the Campbell press release and a copy of the letter Campbell sent to Tobin at www.azhousedemocrats.com.]
“There is something suspicious about this request, and we need to know more about the circumstances surrounding it,” Campbell said. “The taxpayers have a right to know how a giveaway like this is negotiated.”
Campbell said Monday night that he had not received a response from Tobin.
The Republic has an editorial opinion today critical of the corrupt Kavanagh pointing out 10 worthy causes on which his gift to GEO Group, Inc. would be better spent. Kavanagh’s private-prison give away.
In a delightful twist that the “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute should appreciate, Republic columnist E.J. Montini alleges the corrupt Kavanagh of violating the gift clause of the Arizona Constitution (G.I’s preferred weapon of choice in lawsuits). Private prisons, not kids, getting ‘gift’ :
In Arizona, as in most places, it pays to have friends in high places
The people who run private prisons have friends at the Arizona Legislature.
Children do not.
Late last week an outfit called GEO Group Inc., which operates private prisons in Arizona, got a big fact gift. A whopping $900,000 was put into a state budget proposal by House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, a Republican. According to an article by Craig Harris in The Arizona Republic, lobbyists from the company told Kavanagh it wasn’t making enough money and wanted the state to give them more.
And he agreed.
* * *
“This is somebody getting a handout,” Democratic Rep. Chad Campbell said. “It’s unnecessary.”
This might be one of those extremely rare occasions when a politician actually utilizes understatement.
This $900,000 is not “unnecessary.”
And how is this not a violation of the state Constitution’s gift clause?
We’re talking about a billion dollar private prison corporation. The budget is back at the senate today. Then to the governor. Will the Republicans who control this decision actually hand over the million? Money the state Department of Corrections didn’t ask lawmakers to give to the company?
And at a time when budget constraints are making it difficult to fix the horrendous problems Arizona has faced with Child Protective Services.
Late last week, after the House passed its version of the budget the Children’s Action Alliance, which advocates for the needs of our most vulnerable citizens, sent out a press release that read in part: “After all of the political outrage and pronouncements since November about the 6,500 uninvestigated CPS cases, our lawmakers have endorsed a budget that does NOTHING to prevent child abuse and neglect. If this is the final budget, it repeats the same mistakes that created the current child safety crisis: it sets the new agency up for failure and it ignores many children who need help.”
Caroline Isaacs, program director for the American Friends Service Committee, told reporter Harris that the additional funding is “outrageous.”
“Why this corporation feels it’s entitled to bypass the contract process with a state agency it is serving and go directly to the money man (Kavanagh) is incredible,” Isaacs said. “This indicates a level of coziness that should make taxpayers nervous.”
It should make taxpayers sick.
And it should spur voters to take action to kick the corrupt Kavanagh out of office. He faces a GOP primary opponent, and should he survive that challenge, he faces a former Republican turned Democrat, Paula Pennypacker, in November. Kick him out!