After TYT reported on the private-prison investments of three members of Congress, two are publicly addressing the issue.
Democratic Florida Rep. Lois Frankel owned up to $30,000 worth of stock in Tennessee-based CoreCivic, according to financial disclosure documents reviewed by TYT. After an initial request for comment yielded no response, Frankel's office provided TYT with a statement from the congresswoman in which she says she dropped the stock when she found out about it.
"I have a financial adviser who makes decisions about my retirement account investments on my behalf. Once I was alerted to the purchase of $6,827 worth of shares in CoreCivic stock, I immediately instructed my adviser to sell the shares, at a personal financial loss."
A periodic transaction report logging this divestment is not available, and it's unclear whether Frankel sold the stock before or after TYT's inquiry or report. Frankel's office did not respond to questions regarding the timing of the sale and whether she'll join other Florida Democrats in rejecting campaign donations from private-prison companies. The Democratic Party of California also recently resolved to refuse contributions from private-prison companies and related trade groups.
CoreCivic is one of the nation's two biggest private-prison companies, and both are profiting from Donald Trump's harsh immigration policies. The company has received $103 million worth of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts so far this year, already surpassing its 2016 total. GEO Group, the other top company, has raked in even more money from ICE, landing $166 million in ICE contracts this year.
TYT previously reported that several Democrats have accepted donations from the GEO Group and CoreCivic PACs. Some, including Texas Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, defended keeping the donations; others returned, rejected, or donated the contributions. Cuellar recently joined Republicans in voting for a pro-ICE House resolution.
As of the beginning of 2017, Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) owned 1,700 shares, or roughly $50,000, in GEO Group. His office did not respond to an inquiry for TYT's previous story on private-prison investments. Afterward, however, Marchant's deputy communications director Nicholas Smith told TYT in an email that Marchant divested this stock in January 2017. A periodic transaction report listed a sale of stock in "GEO Corp," not GEO Group. There are multiple existing businesses called GEO Corp., but the divestment is listed as part of a First Dallas Securities account, matching the one associated with the GEO Group investment.
Because Marchant filed for an extension on his 2017 annual disclosure filings, there is no public record confirming that Marchant sold his stock in "GEO Group." Smith did not reply to a follow-up request asking why Marchant sold the stock.
GEO Group PAC donated $1,000 to Marchant's campaign on January 31.
Marchant's 2018 Democratic challenger, accountant Jan McDowell, told TYT, "As a candidate, I have little ability to have an impact on this immigration crisis our president created. However, I did travel to Brownsville in the ACLU bus caravan to at least express my interest and concern for the children and their families. . . . My concern continues to be with the apparent priorities of our current representative. By co-sponsoring the Equal Protection of Unaccompanied Minors Act, Rep. Marchant has sided with those proposing the harshest treatment of asylum seeking families. That does not represent the people I know in District 24."
Regarding immigration, McDowell states on her campaign website, "No human is illegal. Yes, it's important to protect safety, which means deporting people convicted of felonies. But we are all immigrants, and the diverse tapestry of America is made better by the contributions of all."
As TYT reported, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) bought as much as $250,000 worth of CoreCivic stock in late January as government detainee contracts boosted the company's profits. His office has not responded to multiple requests for comment. Billings, Montana, TV station KULR8 did receive a response from Gianforte's communications director to TYT's story, although the station decided not to report it publicly. TYT, however, obtained the text of the response.
"It was good talking with you yesterday, and I was happy to walk through how Greg's investments are handled," the communications director told a KULR8 reporter. "As I said, this is a total nonstory. Greg believes his personal assets should never influence his decision-making in office. As he promised Montanans, Greg's investments are governed by a blind investment agreement to avoid any potential conflict of interest. Greg doesn't make decisions about individual investments; a money manager does without Greg's input or direction."
Regardless of who invests his money on his behalf, Gianforte stands to profit from his stake in the private-prison company.
The Montana representative has received a $1,000 campaign contribution from CoreCivic's political action committee.