Since the 2008 financial crisis, cash strapped states have accelerated the outsourcing of America in hopes of delivering the same services more cheaply. "Desperate government is our best customer," said one executive specializing in infrastructure purchases.
Earlier this year, DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy launched an investigation of the influence of the private prison industry on state policies. The review of public records this summer revealed a surprising connection between Arizona Department of Gaming Director Mark Brnovich and the Corrections Corporation of America. In the midst of this story being written, Brnovich announced he would be leaving his post in state gaming regulation, which paves the way for him to seek the post of state Attorney General.
For-profit prison companies like Corrections Corporation of American and GEO Group are no strangers to controversy. Their business model rests on incarceration, and their profits soared throughout the 1990s and 2000s as harsh sentencing laws, the War on Drugs, and tough immigration enforcement led to a dramatic rise in detention and incarceration.
A controversial out-of-state mining company is closer to gaining control over a 3,600-acre swath of publicly available forest near where it is planning a massive open-pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. The Florida firm, Gogebic Taconite, has begun test drilling in the area and has already stirred controversy by hiring out-of-state armed security with automatic assault weapons to guard their activities. The Arizona firm was kicked out of the state after the media uncovered they were not licensed here. Now Gogebic Taconite is attempting to shut down whole forests to keep its controversial mining activities from protestors and curious eyes.
Sallie Mae has dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after a student-led campaign demanding that the nation's largest student loan lender cut ties with the controversial organization. Sallie Mae is the 50th corporation to publicly drop its ALEC membership in the past year-and-a-half as the organization has come under increasing public scrutiny.
A small GOP lobby shop tied to the Tea Party and David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, and which was active in the state's recent recall elections, was awarded $500,000 in taxpayer dollars in what some are calling a backdoor, sweetheart deal cooked up by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) State Chair, outgoing Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder.
Based on the sponsorship rates ALEC promoted earlier this year, the organization took in approximately $910,000 from firms specifically designated as "President" to "Trustee" level sponsors for its 40th Anniversary meeting compared with estimated revenue of approximately $1.2 million for the same level of sponsorships at last year's meeting in Salt Lake City.
An examination of the promotional brochure for the Chicago meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) reveals that the meeting -- where corporate lobbyists secretly vote as equals with legislators on model bills at ALEC task force meetings -- has fewer corporate sponsors willing to tell the public they bankroll ALEC's operations.
"The vitamin D in your milk ... is almost surely a derivative -- after many chemical stages -- from lanolin from Australian sheep wool, concocted in a factory in China. ... Vitamin A, is often synthesized from acetone, a principal ingredient in nail polish remover," notes George Kenney based on his interview with Melanie Warner, a former writer for the New York Times.