Feathered Bastard

Jan Brewer's Chuck Coughlin, CCA, KPHO, and the Nearly $14K Canceled Ad Buy

Last night's report from KPHO's Morgan Loew on the ties between private prison behemoth Corrections Corporation of America and Governor Jan Brewer has drawn some serious plasma from Brewer's camp.

Specifically, the hemorrhage is from Brewer's top political advisor Chuck Coughlin, president of HighGround Public Affairs, which also represents CCA.

Seems Coughlin's squealing like a skewered javelina over Loew's latest. In response, HighGround today published a nasty, unsigned screed about Loew and KPHO on HighGround's Web site.

Most of this whiny jeremiad is just blather. But the most interesting part has to do with an ad buy with KPHO that HighGround dropped.

At the end of last night's segment, Loew mentioned that Coughlin's company canceled the governor's campaign advertising with the station. This, after KPHO began following the Brewer-CCA connection, which has scored national coverage with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show.

HighGround's online reply states that, "The fact is that the Governor Brewer 2010 campaign never made a buy on CBS 5 for its current commercial. There was nothing to cancel."

Um, okay. Then why does CBS 5 have on file documents signed by the Carlton Media Group's Fran Parker, who is listed on HighGround's Web site as working with the company?

The docs, which are public record, show that Parker was the contact for an ad purchase in the gross amount of $13,775 that was to run in the weeks before the primary. (You can see the docs, here.)  

According to KPHO general manager Ed Munson, Brewer's camp canceled the buy before the ads began running.

Confronted with this info, Coughlin e-mailed me that, "The ad buy he is referring to was in August and was never placed. We were considering buys all over the State. We choose [sic] not to air on Channel 5 at that time."

Coughlin didn't get back to me on a question asking if  this decision was because of Loew's reporting.

I asked Munson the same question. He answered that it was "hard to say," but maintained that the lost dollars would not affect KPHO's coverage of the CCA-Brewer connection.

HighGround's online temper-tantrum is telling. First, it attacks Loew ad hominem, calling him "maniacal," saying he has to "make things up," and that Loew is interested in advancement to a bigger gig, maybe in New York or someplace.

On the first and the third charges, if so, so what?

On the second, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, HighGround doesn't really offer anything that Loew made up. That's because Loew didn't make anything up. The kvetches in the post are pretty petty, and reflect Coughlin's biased, self-centered worldview.

One of them involves Caroline Isaacs of the American Friends Service Committee, a CCA critic whom Loew interviews for his piece. HighGround quotes verbatim from Loew's report, which plainly states who Isaacs is, then the post goes on to claim that Loew never did this.

"Moreover, Loew never establishes who Caroline Isaacs is," the screed reads. "Apparently she is in Philadelphia and according to AFSC's own website, 'AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.'  Sounds like a group with a definite political ax to grind."

Like HighGround doesn't have a political ax to grind? Give me a freakin' break!

Also, Isaacs is out of the AFSC's Tucson office. If whoever wrote this garbage bothered to look more than six seconds at AFSC's Web site, they could see under "Where we work" a list of AFSC's offices, including the Tucson one.

And talk about a smear on Quakers. If AFSC happened to be a Mormon organization devoted to service, love and peace programs, would Coughlin's organization be so quick to slam it?

As for Coughlin's Mount McKinley-sized conflict of interest, I've written about this at length in a previous Bird column.

Coughlin denies that there's a conflict of interest, when there clearly is. Even by his own admission, he spoke with the governor about whether or not to sign SB 1070, Arizona's "breathing while brown law," while he already had CCA as a client.

CCA stands to benefit from SB 1070 because CCA has contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people for immigration-related crimes. And as ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard confirms in Loew's piece, individuals picked up by local law enforcement do end up in ICE-CCA custody.

Indeed, Picard recently related to me that for just one CCA prison, the Central Arizona Detention Facility in Florence, ICE paid CCA a staggering $49.5 million for the period between 7/1/09 and 6/30/2010. Not all of that is inmate-related. I'm working on getting a breakdown. But it does give you an idea how much money is involved.

Loew's piece from Tuesday followed up on a series of reports he's done for KPHO, pointing out what was first published by the magazine In These Times: That Coughlin lobbies for CCA, that Brewer's communications director Paul Senseman used to lobby for CCA, and that Senseman's wife Kathy still lobbies for CCA.

In the past, Coughlin has insisted to me that HighGround has "no position on 1070" and did not lobby Brewer on 1070. Of course, CCA lobbyists and execs did contribute to Brewer's seed money, and donated substantially to the Prop 100 campaign, which was Brewer's baby.

What is this, some Benny Hill segment where Coughlin talks to CCA out of one side of his mouth, then changes hats and talks to Brewer with the other?

Just how dumb does Coughlin think the Arizona public is? On second thought, I guess he's got them pretty dead to rights.