Via San Diego Reader | Matt Potter
Following disclosures here regarding cash from private prisons making its way into campaigns of both local Democrats and Republicans — and San Diego GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer’s convention center tax hike bid — California Democrats have vowed to eschew future money and disgorge prior donations.
Party chairman Eric Bauman vowed that any contributions since May 21, 2017, would be “donated to organizations doing critical work to protect immigrants from the Trump administration or to support and rehabilitate recently incarcerated folks,” reports a July 13 dispatch by Capitol Weekly, which notes that the state party raised more than $160,000 in contributions from two big private prison operators during 2017.
Another purge of private prison money was made from the campaign coffers of Democratic state leader Senate leader Toni Atkins of San Diego, who donated $12,000 that she said represented previously received prison industry contributions to “four local non-profit organizations actively involved with immigration justice issues,” Capitol Weekly said.
Additional detail on the Atkins money emerged in a July 13 account by INTO. Atkins, according to the report, “took $4,200 from GEO Group last year and another $4,000 from Northrop Grumman, whose ICE contracts since 2006 have totaled more than $88 million. Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s (78th District) coffers included $1,500 from GEO Group and Northrop Grumman respectively.”
“The Senate Leader Atkins never personally solicited these contributions nor have those contributions ever in any way affected her votes or her values,” according to a statement cited by the account. “Atkins donated $3,000 each to the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Alliance San Diego, the Casa Cornelia Law Center and the ABA Immigration Justice Project of San Diego.”
An Atkins spokesman said the disgorgements were made after the June launch of an online petition against private prison contributions. “That’s when the issue first came to our attention,” the spokesman asserted.
San Diego Democrat Gloria’s campaign said it contributed its GEO money to Pillars of the Community and The Partnership Advancement for New Americans in equal amounts of $750 on July 9, per the account.
The moves follow a reported disgorgement to charity by Assembly Democrat Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher.
Her receipt of reelection campaign money from CoreCivic of Tennessee, LLC, operator of the controversial Otay Mesa federal detention center, was condemned by Lori Saldaña,defeated by Fletcher’s husband Nathan Fletcher, a former GOP Assemblyman, in last month’s nasty primary race for 4th District county supervisor.
As first reported here May 8, $2000 was received by the Assemblywoman’s campaign fund earlier this year from CoreCivic. The Gonzalez Fletcher campaign subsequently turned over hundreds of thousands of dollars to the county Democratic party, which spent heavily on her husband’s behalf to knock off Saldaña.
Other local politicos benefiting from private prison cash have included GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez with $1000 and Juan Vargas, now a Democratic member of Congress, whose campaign received $3000 when he was a member of the state senate, records have shown. Atkins, a former Assembly speaker, got a total of $10,200 from 2011 to 2016, per data from the California secretary of state’s office.
Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein got $6000. Former Assemblyman and current senator Ben Hueso collected $3000, and Assembly Democrat Fletcher Gonzalez previously received $4000.
In addition, GEO Group, which runs a downtown federal lockup, has been a longtime backer of San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, whose donors have included Carlsbad’s Eric Noonan, one of GEO’s top prison wardens, with $1050 on election day, June 7, 2016.
GEO is also a stalwart financial backer of the mayor’s charity, One San Diego, which stages his annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaways in poorer parts of the city.