Politicians should be required to wear the logo’s of the companies they accept interest money from, like NASCAR drivers.
Last year, over 850,000 people in America were arrested for marijuana-related crimes. Despite public opinion, the medical community, and human rights experts all moving in favor of relaxing marijuana prohibition laws, little has changed in terms of policy.
There have been many great books and articles detailing the history of the drug war. Part of America’s fixation with keeping the leafy green plant illegal is rooted in cultural and political clashes from the past.
However, we at Republic Report think it’s worth showing that there are entrenched interest groups that are spending large sums of money to keep our broken drug laws on the books:
1.) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, we published a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide.
2.) Private Prisons Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, to pass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes.
3.) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed.
4.) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”
5.) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 million to defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”
RELATED: Why Can’t You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on Drugs
Private prisons spend $45 million on lobbying, rake in $5.1 billion for immigrant detention alone
August 3, 2012
Nearly half of all immigrants detained by federal officials are held in facilities run by private prison companies, at an average cost for each detained immigrant is $166 a night. That’s added up to massive profits for Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group and other private prison companies:
A decade ago, more than 3,300 criminal immigrants were sent to private prisons under two 10-year contracts the Federal Bureau of Prisons signed with CCA worth $760 million. Now, the agency is paying the private companies $5.1 billion to hold more than 23,000 criminal immigrants through 13 contracts of varying lengths.
CCA was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2000 due to lawsuits, management problems and dwindling contracts. Last year, the company reaped $162 million in net income. Federal contracts made up 43 percent of its total revenues, in part thanks to rising immigrant detention. GEO, which cites the immigration agency as its largest client, saw its net income jump from $16.9 million to $78.6 million since 2000.
As the AP explains, these remarkable profits come in the wake of an equally remarkable lobbying campaign. In the past decade, three major private prison companies spent $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists to push legislation at the state and federal level. At times, this money has gone to truly nefarious legislation. A 2011 report found that the private prison industry spent millions seeking to increase sentences and incarcerate more people in order to increase the industry’s profits. 30 of the 36 legislators who co-sponsored Arizona’s now mostly invalidated immigration law — which would have landed many more people in detention — received campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists or companies, including CCA and GEO. According to a report released last year, CCA spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO spent between $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span in 2011. $450,000 went to the Republican national and congressional committees, while Democrats received less than half that number. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) were also among the private prison lobby’s top benefactors.
Private prisons have also been found guilty of abuses ranging from understaffing facilities tobribing judges to sentencing juveniles with minor offenses to disproportionately long terms in privately-owned correctional facilities. A recent report found a Georgia prison run by CCA charges detainees $5 a minute for phone calls while paying them just a dollar a day for menial labor that keeps the facility running; immigrants in civil detention centers have been exploited by the same program.
Wall Street Lobbied Hard To Water Down Law On Congressional Insider Trading
President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act earlier this month, which was passed after a 60 Minutes investigation revealed that members of Congress were profiting from information they received in their official capacity. House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL), for instance, made nearly $30,000 trading on information he received during private briefings during the 2008 financial crisis.
The original version of the STOCK Act that passed out of the Senate included a provision that would have required Washington insiders who sell intelligence to corporate America to register as lobbyists. However, that provision was ultimately stripped from the bill by House Republicans. And according to an analysis by The Hill, it was Wall Street lobbying that proved the catalyst:
A review by The Hill of lobbying records from the first quarter of 2012 found that many of the financial sector’s biggest names lobbied on the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. Many bolstered their forces with new lobbyists, while others turned to K Street for the first time as the bill moved toward President Obama’s desk to become law.
A concern for many in financial services was a provision that would have required “political intelligence” consultants to register as lobbyists and disclose their clients. Financial lobbyists were worried that would lead to thousands of research analysts having to register for even the briefest contact with Capitol Hill.
House Republicans stripped that measure from the final piece of legislation, spurring allegations from Democrats and some Republicans that the party was doing Wall Street’s bidding.
When the watered down bill passed the Senate, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) — who sponsored the provision on political intelligence — blasted Congress, saying, “I won’t ascribe motives to anyone in this body, but I know that today’s actions only serve the desires of obscure and powerful Wall Street interests.” And it turns out that he comment was right on the mark.