Private Prison Contributions Surged At End Of ’07

In just two months, two executives of the nation’s largest prison business gave $2,400 to various campaigns in Colorado, nearly triple the total amount contributed a year before.

According to records from the Secretary of State’s office, high-ranking officials with Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America went on a spending spree during the last two months of 2007, contributing money to the candidate committees of seven state legislators, usually in $400 increments, the highest legal amount.State campaign finance records show that Marsha Wedell, wife of CCA board member Henri Wedell and a listed vice president at the company, gave $1,400 to the campaigns of Reps. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood; Mary Hodge, D-Brighton; Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield; and House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker. May’s committee received $200, while the rest were given $400 contributions — the maximum allowed by law.

Josh Brown, a senior director at CCA who handles business relations in Colorado, gave a total of $1000 to the committees of Reps. David Balmer, R-Centennial; Michael Garcia, D-Aurora; and Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, according to SOS documents.

What makes the spending surge unique is not the monetary amounts given to state lawmakers, but the sheer increase in spending from last year by CCA.

State records show that CCA board member Henri Wedell gave $400 in November 2006 to the campaign of House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, while CCA gave a business contribution of $500 to the Colorado Leadership Fund, a Republican political committee, during the same month.

The company didn’t contribute again until the end of 2007, when executives gave nearly triple the $900 amount contributed at the same time in 2006.

CCA operates four detention facilities in Colorado. Earlier in the month, the company demanded a 5 percent increase in the daily rate the state pays to hold inmates and threatened to stop housing prisoners.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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