ICE's Top Prison Contractor Donates Another $25K to Florida Attorney General Candidate

Ashley Moody wants to be Florida's "top cop." It's pretty significant, then, that her Republican campaign to be Florida's attorney general is being bankrolled by Boca Raton's GEO Group, one of the two largest private-prison firms in America.

According to campaign-finance data available online, Moody's political-action committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, accepted a fat $25,000 check directly from GEO on October 3.

Activists have already been protesting Moody's connections to GEO. Earlier this year, the civil-rights group Dream Defenders criticized Moody for taking just $3,000 from GEO. Now, her PAC is going all-in on private-prison funds.

Moody's opponent, progressive Democrat Sean Shaw, highlighted the donation in a press release earlier today.

"The idea that my opponent would accept money from a company that profits off of locking children in cages is more than just poor judgment — it’s disqualifying," Shaw said today in a news release. "Where is her humanity? Locking children in cages is antithetical to everything that I believe Floridians support."

A prison firm straight-up funding the state's top law-enforcement officer's campaign raises some obvious questions about her conflicts of interest. Would Moody be less likely to investigate claims of assault, misconduct, or abuse in GEO-run facilities if she wins? Would she support law-enforcement policies that direct more detainees and prisoners to GEO's for-profit facilities?

GEO has come under fire repeatedly at the state and national level in the last few years. Its facilities are often the subject of protests. In addition to running regular, for-profit jails, GEO also runs detention centers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including the Broward Transitional Center, which was the subject of a hunger strike in 2012. Guards at GEO facilities have been repeatedly accused of abuse, and one GEO facility near Los Angeles in 2017 saw multiple detainee deaths. GEO also holds more than $400 million in ICE contracts — more than any other company in America. In the meantime, GEO floods the political system with donations.

But activists have successfully pressed Democratic politicians, at least, to give up that private-prison money. Every Democratic candidate for Florida governor, for example, agreed during the 2018 primary to refuse any donations from GEO. The activist group Dream Defenders also successfully pushed the Florida Democratic Party to ban private-prison donations. GEO then warned it would sue Dream Defenders, a legal threat that the American Civil Liberties Union later said did not pass "the laugh test."

Dream Defenders argues that it's an obvious conflict for any attorney general candidates to take money from companies that profit from incarceration.

"As the potential highest law officer in the state, she should not be accepting money from private corporations" like GEO, Dream Defenders organizer Char Singleton told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this year.

The Friends of Ashley Moody PAC is, technically, supposed to be separate from the campaign. But Moody in June explained to a Dream Defenders activist why she was going to keep GEO's money. She stressed that she has always supported local law enforcement in an "unbiased way" and would continue to do so if elected to replace Pam Bondi as attorney general.

At the moment, she has a massive war chest compared to her Democratic opponent Sean Shaw.

"As Attorney General, I will immediately investigate the numerous allegations of abuse that have occurred as a result of the President’s failing immigration policies," Shaw said today.

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