Does Sessions Own Stock in Private Prisons?

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Jeff Sessions, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51185110

On February 5, 2017, I wrote an article concerning the Trump Administration’s intentions to use private prisons for housing immigrants. Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that ICE would indeed house their detainees in these private prisons.

A policy of this magnitude doesn’t just happen overnight. We are literally talking about arresting and detaining over 11 million undocumented immigrants. Each deportation hearing will take anywhere from three to eighteen months or longer. That means lots of tax payer dollars will be needed.

The GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America), who have 85% of the private prison business, lobbied hard with Republicans and Trump in 2016. After President Obama announced the federal government would no longer use private prisons to house their inmates, these companies were in a panic to find clients to fill their jails. They found their mark in Republicans and Trump with their anti-immigrant rants.

In 2016, CoreCivic tended to spend its money in lobbying, though they never once listed the specific Congress members they lobbied. The GEO Group on the other hand, lobbied and gave directly to candidates and PACs.

The fact that our elected officials are taking money from prisons is beyond reprehensible. It is without ethics or morals, and I intend in future articles to dime out every single one of them. But for now, I will only list those related to the Trump Administration for the purpose of this specific argument.

Money to Trump:

The GEO Group gave $170,000 to the Trump Victory PAC, $5,000 to Donald J. Trump and $50,000 to Rebuild America Now PAC which supported Trump. They also gave over $300,000 more to various PACs that supported Trump as well as Republicans in general.

CoreCivic only gave $2,500 to a Republican PAC that supported Trump.

It is entirely possible and highly probable, thanks to Citizens United, that millions were given through PACs not required to show who their donors are, also known as “dark money.” It is also not known if Trump or family members have investments in these companies since they refuse to release their financial information.

2016 Lobbying money:

CoreCivic spent over $1.6 million lobbying Congress, while The GEO Group spent just over $800,000.

2016 Lobbying Contributions:

CoreCivic gave Donald Trump $250,000 to party with at his inauguration.

Money to Sessions:

As mentioned in my previous article, The GEO Group directly lobbied then Senator Sessions to the tune of $120,000. This was done through an Alabama law firm by the name of Bradley Arant Boult and Cummings LLP. This firm further gave Sessions a direct contribution of $7,500 for his 2014 race.

Additionally, Sessions took in a donation of $1,000 from the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC led by Mary Lou Tanton, wife of John Tanton. Tanton is the founder of the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group. The SPLC further states on its website that Tanton is a white supremacist and eugenicist. Julie Kirchner, former executive director of FAIR, is now the chief of staff at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency though it remains to be seen what experience if any she has in regards to this agency.

Finally, it is well known that the largest owner of both CoreCivic and The GEO Group stock is the Vanguard Group. They currently own 17.61% of The GEO Group and 15.75% of CoreCivic. And it just so happens that Sessions owns some of that stock. At least he did in 2015. This is the latest record he gave the Senate for disclosure. Seems he’s failed to report 2016. So maybe he could have sold it, but that remains to be seen. Updates regarding sales of his investments for 2016 are available, and Vanguard is not listed on any of them. Disclosures for the White House staff are of course unavailable. After all, if it’s good enough for Trump…

There are many Vanguard mutual funds, money markets, etc., and not all of them contain these private prison stocks. One that does is Vanguard Selected Value Inv. This fund, at last report, consists of 2.74% of The GEO Group stock or 2,054,900 shares. Attorney Jeff Sessions listed ownership of this stock in his 2015 disclosure report. He also reported that his wife owns the same stock.

So the question remains, are we going to let them get away with this?

All information is readily available on the FEC, Senate and House databases. Check it out before Trump makes it disappear.