Watchdog Demands Response to Complaint Over Trump PAC Donation

GEO vehicles parked outside the Houston federal courthouse in April 2017. (Photo by Cameron Langford/CNS)

WASHINGTON (CN) – An ethics watchdog group filed a federal complaint Wednesday against the Federal Election Commission over its delay in resolving a complaint against a large private prison company that donated money to a pro-Trump super PAC.

The Campaign Legal Center filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C., federal court more than a year after it lodged a complaint with the FEC against GEO Corrections Holdings Inc., one of the country’s largest private prison companies, and the super PAC it donated to, Rebuilding America Now.

According to Wednesday’s eight-page lawsuit, written by in-house attorneys Adav Noti and Mark Gaber, GEO Corrections Holdings gave $225,000 to the super PAC in violation of a law that prohibits federal contractors from making political contributions.

The Campaign Legal Center says the FEC has failed to take any action on its November 2016 complaint about those contributions. The lawsuit alleges violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

According to the complaint, GEO Corrections Holdings has continued to make illegal political donations.

“On March 8, 2017, it contributed $100,000 to Congressional Leadership Fund,16 and on April 26, 2017, it contributed $100,000 to Senate Leadership Fund,17 both of which are super PACs,” the lawsuit states.

Geo Corrections Holdings has given $845,000 to political committees since 2015, the complaint alleges.

The FEC declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Campaign Legal Center spokesperson Corey Goldstone said the group hopes the lawsuit will spur the FEC to process its 2016 complaint against GEO Corrections Holdings.

“The ban on federal contractors giving to political campaigns is one of the most important laws the FEC has to uphold. We don’t want federal contractors to think they can purchase contracts through political contributions,” he said in a phone interview. “We want the government to award contracts based on what’s best for the public. So the FEC has to take this seriously.”

The matter spurred the Campaign Legal Center to take additional legal action after the Justice Department reversed an Obama-era directive issued in August 2016 by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates that instructed the Bureau of Prisons to phase out the use of private prisons.

According to the lawsuit, the day after Yates issued the directive, GEO Corrections Holdings gave $100,000 to Rebuilding America Now.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the Obama policy last February, and the Department of Justice awarded GEO a $110 million contract in April to build a private, 1,000-bed immigration detention center in Texas.

The Campaign Legal Center sought information about the policy reversal in a February 2017 Freedom of Information Act request, and then sued the Justice Department in June after it failed to turn over any relevant records.

Goldstone, the group’s spokesman, said that the 62 pages of documents the Justice Department handed over as a result of last year’s lawsuit did not show whether the agency conducted any serious policy analysis before it reversed the Yates directive.

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