There is a stench growing around the Miami claque that spawned from Jeb Bush’s political machine (a machine that has only begun to flex its national muscle, with his top fixer Al Cardenas now atop the American Conservative Union, Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate, David Rivera in the House, and Bush’s cronies in veto-proof charge in Tallahassee.
So far, the stink hasn’t stuck to Rubio, a media darling who largely escaped criticism during the campaign for his lavish spending on a party credit card. But even if the media isn’t interested in the Amexgate story (eager as the MSM is to see Rubio run for president or vice president…) apparently the feds are interested, and their interest extends beyond Rubo himself, to the cronies he gathered around him when he was Florida’s speaker of the House.
And that brings us to a story posted last week by the independent media outlet In These Times, by a reporter named Beau Hodai, which got exactly zero media play. I was thankfully alerted to it by a fellow Florida blogger, BeachPeanuts. And it goes a little something like this:
On January 5, newly elected U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was sworn into office in Washington D.C. But the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives has some unfinished business back home.
Rubio—as well as other state GOP lawmakers and party contributors—are currently the likely subjects of multiple wide-ranging state and federal investigations conducted by the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) into improper use of credit cards issued by the Republican Party of Florida, as well as tax evasion and improper budgetary appropriations.
Some of the legislative actions reportedly being investigated by federal authorities are those that led to the development of the state’s largest private prison, the Blackwater River Correctional Facility (CF), which opened its gates for operation in November 2010. The prison was designed and is operated by Florida-based Geo Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison operator.
To date, investigations into members of the Florida Republican Party, as well into party donors, have resulted in multiple indictments. On November 2, 2010- election day—federal investigators subpoenaed the party’s financial records.
So far, the most prominent Rubio cronies to face scrutiny have been his former hand-picked budget chief Ray Sansom, who succeeded Rubio as speaker only to leave office under indictment for allegedly writing a budget item that gifted $6 million to a campaign contributor, and then accepting a cushy job at a university tied to that contract. Did I mention that Rubio got himself a cushy university job upon leaving office, too…?
Well Hodai goes on to report that while Sansom was never charged with also writing a budget item for the prison privatization scheme:
…while serving as Rubio’s budget chief inserted language into the Florida’s 2008-2009 budget for what was to become Blackwater CF.
And as to Blackwater CF, Hodai reports:
On March 30, 2010, Elva McCaig, a nurse employed at the Florida Department of Corrections’ (FDOC) Santa Rosa Correctional Institute, and treasurer of Nurses Behind the Gate, a prison nurse advocacy group, wrote a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Thomas Kirwin and State Attorney for Florida’s Second Judicial District Willie Meggs.
The letter laid out McCaig’s concerns that the development of Blackwater CF was yet another legislatively-mandated handout to yet another prominent Florida Republican Party contributor, Geo Group. Geo consistently reports annual revenue in excess of one billion dollars—all of which it earns through state, county and federal contracts for the detention of both criminal offenders and immigrant detainees.
Indeed, Geo is a top Florida Republican Party contributor; through two political action committees (PACs), Florida Geo Group, Inc. PAC and Geo Group, Inc. PAC, the corporation gave $85,000 to the Republican Party of Florida from 2006 through 2009, along with tens of thousands of dollars in additional contributions to other state Republican Party PACs and campaigns of individual Republican candidates.
It is also worth noting that from 2005 through 2010, Geo, through its PACs, dispensed an additional $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, an additional $32,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and an additional $10,000 over 2009 and 2010 directly to the Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate PAC.
Geo’s PAC spending, however, is not the limit of their appreciation shown to Rubio.
On September 13, 2010, several top Geo corporate executives, along with Geo lobbyists and subcontractors, gave a total of $33,500 in individual contributions to the Florida Victory Committee, a PAC created for the benefit of three other PACS: Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Party of Florida. In addition, Geo Chief Executive Officer and founder George Zoley gave Rubio a further $4,800 in personal contributions over the course of 2009 and 2010—half of which Zoley gave to the Rubio campaign on September 13, 2010—putting his own personal disbursements to the Rubio campaign for that single day at $7,400.
Hodai has much more on this story on his website, including curious links between Geo and such notables as Wackenhut, Arthur Laffer and frequent CNBC pundit/Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore, plus Rubio’s former “economic consultant,” a woman named Donna Arduin.
It’s long, but worth a read. It also seems to explain why Rubio has been so reticent in Washington, and so below the radar regarding his national political future. If he is indeed under multiple federal investigations, quiet is probably best.
Its also worth noting that privatizing prisons, including supporting “faith based” prisons which indoctrinate inmates while incarcerating them, became a kind of political fad during the regime of Rubio’s main political patron, Jeb Bush.
And it’s something that Florida governor Rick Scott’s new BFF, wannabe Senator and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, says is still “on the table.”
Drip … drip …