Lawsuit: Unlawful Delay by FEC to Resolve CLC Complaint Against Private Prison Company Threatens Integrity of Government Contracting Process

GEO’s $225,000 in contributions to pro-Trump super PAC violated 75-year old protection against companies buying contracts through political contributions

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over its unlawful delay in enforcing federal law against GEO Group, one of America’s largest private prison companies. GEO broke the law by contributing to a super PAC that supported the Trump campaign during the 2016 general election. More than a year after CLC filed a complaint with the FEC over these violations, there is no indication the FEC has taken any action.

CLC’s original FEC complaint showed how GEO’s $225,000 in contributions to the super PAC Rebuilding America Now violated the 75-year-old prohibition on government contractors making political contributions. After President Trump was elected with GEO’s illegal backing, his administration reversed the prior administration’s plans to phase-out private prison contracts, then awarded GEO with $110 million in a new contract to build and operate a 1,000-bed immigration detention center in Texas. Now, GEO shares have more than tripled since hitting a low in 2016.

“The contractor ban is essential to prevent companies from using campaign contributions to buy government contracts, and that ban must be enforced,” said Adav Noti, senior director, trial litigation at CLC, who previously served as the FEC’s associate general counsel for policy. “This is why we need an effective FEC. If the agency sits on its hands, the law is not worth the paper it is printed on.”

“If the FEC doesn’t enforce the 75-year-old contractor contribution ban against companies like GEO Group, then taxpayer-funded contracts become an obvious way for politicians to reward their deep-pocketed campaign supporters,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal and FEC reform at CLC. “As the FEC continues to delay taking action, GEO continues buying influence with illegal contributions. With the 2018 elections quickly approaching, the FEC must make clear that private prison companies and other contractors cannot expect to violate the law and get away with it."

In September 2017, the FEC fined another government contractor, Suffolk Construction, for contributing to the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA, in response to a complaint from CLC and Democracy 21. But the FEC has still not taken action on CLC’s complaint against GEO Group.

Last year, CLC sued to learn what research, evidence, or reports Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department relied upon in reaching its decision to reverse the prior administration’s phase-out of the use of private prisons. That litigation revealed that Session’s DOJ did not rely on any research, evidence, or reports, further suggesting that GEO’s illegal contributions informed the decision.

Read CLC’s original complaint filed on Nov. 1, 2016 and supplement from Dec. 20, 2016.