In May, I reported in my Feathered Bastard blog that executives and lobbyists for the giant, Tennessee-based prison company Corrections Corporation of America had donated $1,780 in "seed money" for Governor Jan Brewer's Clean Elections campaign.
Such early contributions are limited to $140 per person. But if that seems like chump change, consider that CCA also contributed a whopping $10,000 to the campaign for Prop 100, the state sales-tax initiative, the success of which was considered key to Brewer's bid to be more than an "accidental" governor.
The proposition was approved overwhelmingly by voters in May.
What's the big deal with the CCA contributions? CCA operates six prisons in Arizona, three of which house detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
As this column goes to press, SB 1070, Arizona's "breathing-while-brown" law, awaits the decision of U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton on whether she will grant an injunction of all or part of the statute.
The various enforcement provisions of 1070 practically ensure that more undocumented folks will be turned over to ICE. CCA probably will end up holding some of these individuals as they wait for removal proceedings or if they are convicted of federal immigration-related crimes.
So CCA stands to profit from SB 1070, and as recent reports from the investigative magazine In These Times and Phoenix's CBS 5 (KPHO) indicate, Brewer's relationship to CCA runs far deeper than just the political contributions mentioned above.
In These Times' July issue featured a story by Beau Hodai that revealed that Brewer's top flack, Paul Senseman, worked for Arizona's Policy Development Group, which lists CCA as a client. Senseman's wife, Kathy, is listed with the firm as a lobbyist for CCA.
Hodai also reported that the CCA employs Highground Public Affairs Consultants to represent its interests in Arizona. Highground's president is Chuck Coughlin, Brewer's top political adviser and the man running her gubernatorial campaign.
Though In These Times was the first to publish this information, CBS 5's investigative unit was the first to run with it locally.
During a recent newscast, reporter Morgan Loew revealed that CCA gets $11 million a month for inmates in the company's Arizona facilities.
Loew got that figure from the U.S. Marshal's Office. Marshal David Gonzales confirmed the figure to me. But he said that's just what he pays CCA for holding his prisoners, many of whom have been convicted on immigration-related offenses.
So that $11 million doesn't include whatever ICE pays CCA for the same services. I've asked ICE for that number, but it hasn't gotten back to me.
Loew sandbagged Brewer at an event, but Brewer refused to answer questions about her advisers' ties to CCA.
Brewer's boy was willing to chat it up with me about his big-dollar, private prison client, however.
Clearly miffed by the CBS 5 report, Coughlin referred to it as "drive-by" journalism, and claimed that CCA "doesn't house any Arizona prisoners."
"They don't house those types of inmates," insisted Coughlin regarding CCA and immigration-related collars. "[The CBS 5 report] is . . . a total piece of made-up journalism."
When I told him that I'd been to the federal courthouse in Tucson myself, and witnessed CCA buses carting people convicted of immigration crimes, he backpedaled — but not by much.
"That may be a federal contract," he said. "It has nothing to do with the state."
But it will have something to do with the state if 1070 takes effect, as 1070 is all about local police enforcing federal immigration law to the fullest extent possible. Indeed, law enforcement agencies that do not enforce 1070 can be sued by Arizona citizens under one of the law's provisions.
The law makes "attrition through enforcement" the policy of Arizona, and one provision requires that all those arrested have their immigration status checked before they are released.
If CCA ends up holding some of these individuals, then 1070 will benefit CCA directly.
"If that happens, if it were the case, if ICE does," scoffed Coughlin. "You have a lot of ifs down the road that's not a matter of fact right now. We're not working on speculative ventures here. We had no position on 1070. We did not lobby on 1070."
Didn't lobby on 1070? That's one hard-to-swallow lump of coal. I asked Coughlin if he was telling me he'd never talked to Brewer about 1070 or advised her to sign the bill, as many presume he did.
"I talk with her about a lot of stuff," he admitted. "Of course, we talked about 1070. We run her campaign. Absolutely."
Coughlin also admitted that his firm began representing CCA "over a year ago." So he was representing CCA at the same time he was advising Brewer on whether to sign the law.
If that's not a conflict of interest big enough to drive a semi through, I don't know what is.
Neither Brewer's flack Senseman nor CCA responded to requests for comment for this column. But when I wrote about CCA and Brewer in May, CCA spokeswoman Louise Grant was not shy about gabbing.
Grant maintained that CCA has no position on 1070. She denied that the law would be good for her employer or that CCA had any influence over the drafting of the law.
"CCA has had no involvement whatsoever with this legislation," she told me at the time. "And we will not have any involvement with it."
Well, not until local cops start handing over people to ICE. After that, despite Grant's disavowals, CCA will be involved.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not positing a conspiracy theory. In my view, the odious ideology of nativism was the driving force behind the passage of SB 1070.
But Coughlin clearly is making bank off CCA. And the company knows where its croissant is buttered.
Everybody can smell the links between Brewer and CCA. They stink like one of Brewer's headless bodies in the desert. Or they would, if those bodies were real.
I was amused, to say the least, by some of my liberal friends' phoning me recently and pointing out an article written by former New Times journalist Terry Greene Sterling for an online publication, wherein neo-Nazi J.T. Ready announced that he's leaving the National Socialist Movement, the most prominent neo-Nazi organization in the United States.
Ready also told Sterling that he now sees the migrants he's been turning over to the U.S. Border Patrol during his illegal-alien patrols in the desert as "economic refugees," and suggested that his views on immigration have been softened by the encounters.
Liberals tend to be fuzzy-headed when it comes to this stuff, believing in the capacity of all to have their "road to Damascus" experience and see the light.
To which I would say in regard to Ready: Give me a freakin' break!
Ready, who has referred to Adolf Hitler as "a great white civil rights leader," has been actively participating in NSM events since 2007, long before he was claiming party membership.
He once showed up to a nativist rally at the state Capitol with a nearly life-size portrait of the führer, and he's been present for NSM scuffles with antagonists in such places as Las Vegas and Riverside, California. And he marched and spoke at an NSM rally on the state Capitol lawn in November 2009.
I've watched him bait Jews, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans at Phoenix events. He used to drive around with the license plate "NSM USA" on his Chevy Impala.
The Mesa storm trooper maintains an active profile on the social networking Web site NewSaxon.org, which bills itself as "an online community for whites, by whites." The vile site, replete with every type of racist imagery imaginable, is owned by the National Socialist Movement.
Ready regularly updates his profile, "Viking Son," with blog posts. His latest, dated July 23, thanks his fellow white supremacists for their encouragement and "heartfelt gifts of support" in his struggle against what he calls "the narco-terrorist invasion."
He assures readers that "victory will be ours," despite some of the hostile media attention his patrols in the desert have been receiving.
Actually, Ready's incursions into the Vekol Valley, which have included other well-known neo-Nazis, including Harry Hughes and NSM regional director Jeff Hall, have garnered him a public-relations bonanza.
Fox News, Telemundo, CNN, and the Associated Press are just some of the media outlets that have covered Ready's patrols, which operate on the dividing line between Maricopa and Pinal Counties, some distance from Arizona's border with Mexico.
Ready has been collaborating, after a fashion, with the U.S. Border Patrol, turning over undocumented to its agents and, most recently, a load of dope that Ready claims his "U.S. Border Guard" group "intercepted."
The Border Patrol keeps telling me that it cannot confirm any of these incidents, despite numerous photos of Ready and other swastika-lickers chumming it up with Border Patrol Agents in the field, posted to Ready's Flickr page and to Harry Hughes' blog "Just Another Day . . ."
The Anti-Defamation League has denounced Ready's patrols. And Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who ironically granted an interview to white-supremacist radio show The Political Cesspool recently, has made public statements letting the neo-Nazis know they are unwelcome.
The Arizona Highway Patrol Association has shown some interest in Ready's activities. On July 23, the organization, which represents Arizona Department of Public Safety officers, urged vigilante groups to "stay out of the desert."
The release did not mention Ready or neo-Nazis by name, but it did include a photo from Ready's first public patrol, showing gear emblazoned with the word "police." It warned that those impersonating law enforcement could be prosecuted for a felony.
Ready told me that the gear belonged to a cop buddy of his.
"I let Sheriff Baboon play cop on TV for me instead," he cracked in a text message to me. "Safer that way."
The wanna-be Sergeant Schultz also said he'd been a member of NSM "for less than a year" and that he was leaving to "focus on the border and my personal life."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Of the Sterling interview and his supposed newfound humanity, he wrote, "Steve, you are too intelligent an atheist to print everything conjured up by NT staff — job or no staff job. Connect the dots."
I don't believe that Sterling, a writer in residence with ASU's Cronkite School of Journalism, "conjured" up anything. Ready is simply a slippery individual.
More importantly, though, Ready was a neo-Nazi before his NSM membership.
And with or without it, his spots remain unchanged.