Mother Jones - October 10, 2019

"At least one private prison opponent thinks GEO Group has nothing to fear from its sponsorship of the fringe conference. “This is a company that incarcerates people for the purpose of generating corporate profits,” says Alex Friedmann, associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, a nonprofit advocacy group located near GEO Group headquarters in Florida. “They run facilities where people have been murdered. They house children in prison-like facilities. At this conference, all the other nutjobs should be embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with GEO Group, not the other way around.”

Last year, a group of far-right fringe agitators and conspiracy theorists set out to create a pro-Trump political conference in DC for people just like them. Headliners for the American Priority Conference included Trump whisperer Roger Stone, before he was indicted for lying to Congress, and short-lived Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. But the event at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park proved to be an embarrassing flop, with attendance so dismal that one scheduled speaker fled rather than address such a small audience. Undeterred, organizers this year have taken a new approach by moving the event from DC to the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Club in Florida.

Relocating to a property owned by the president seems to have transformed the conference, which starts Thursday, into a bona fide political confab. It has attracted some more prominent speakers this year, notably the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., who will stand for selfies with anyone who pays the VIP rate of $2,500 to attend. But American Priority also seems to have nabbed the support of the sort of a big corporate patron that was missing from its 2018 fringe-fest. GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison company that has received nearly half a billion dollars in federal contracts to detain immigrants since President Trump took office, is now listed as one of its most prominent sponsors.

Holding functions at a Trump-owned property has become de rigueur for interest groups, from payday lenders to the Saudis, looking to influence the administration, and GEO Group is no exception. The country’s largest private prison company relies heavily on federal largesse. More than 40 percent of its revenue comes from federal contracts, and it has taken a number of steps to ingratiate itself with the Trump administration. During the presidential campaign, a GEO Group subsidiary donated $225,000 to a pro-Trump super-PAC. After Trump was elected, the company donated $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee and moved its annual meeting to Doral. And now, it’s helping a pro-Trump group spend some money there. ...
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