This story was produced in collaboration with Sludge, an investigative money-in-politics website.
Four days after a TYT story by this author uncovered Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel’s investment in private prison giant CoreCivic, the House member sold her stock. Sludge was able to verify the transaction and its date from a recently released periodic transaction report for Frankel.
After Frankel’s CoreCivic investment was reported, she told TYT, "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."
But the representative did not answer questions about when the sale took place. With this new disclosure, it’s clear her adviser sold the stock four days after the TYT investigation was published. The transaction occurred on July 16.
Frankel’s state of Florida is home to two CoreCivic facilities. CoreCivic’s main competitor, GEO Group, is headquartered in Boca Raton and has six locations in the state.
The private prison industry has been in the national spotlight lately because of its close relationship with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which doles out hundreds of millions of dollars each year to private prison companies to detain and transport undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers.
Under Donald Trump’s immigration policies, ICE has increased its apprehensions and detentions, providing corporations, namely GEO Group and CoreCivic, with bigger government contracts. Tennessee-based CoreCivic has benefited from $128 million in ICE contracts this year, second only to GEO Group, which has taken in $186 million from ICE in 2018.
The Florida Democratic Party passed a resolution in July to reject all contributions from private prisons. Well known politicians from the state including Frankel's colleagues Charlie Crist and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz have reportedly signed the Party’s pledge.
Also in July, the California Democratic Party swore off contributions from private incarceration services companies and trade groups that represent such businesses. Candidates in other states such as Arizona have taken similar pledges.
Private prison companies have attempted to donate to several Democratic members of Congress during this election cycle, and some have accepted the money, but a number either rejected the funds or donated them to charity.
Alex Kotch is an investigative reporter for Sludge focused on money-in-politics. His work has appeared in International Business Times, The Nation and Vice.