Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Way It's Done, In Arizona And Elsewhere

Most Tea Party supporters are not racists, do not believe in stomping on the head of a woman, and actually love their country, albeit in a rather strange manner. But before this destructive movement guided by corporate lobbyists began, author Thomas Frank described the phenomenon often and accurately. And on Hardball Thursday evening, Ron Reagan nailed it:

MATTHEWS: This is great conundrum, Ron, and here‘s the conundrum of all times. The business community hates his guts. The Republican Party calls him a socialist, even if they—sometimes, they call him, American, but usually, a socialist American at least, at least the moderate ones. They think he‘s been absolutely socialist, absolutely left wing. And yet, the left, the progressive people out there say he‘s been timid.

What he done wrong when he has both sides—

REAGAN: The Republicans don‘t think—really think he‘s been a socialist. Not the people who are, you know, in office and know better. That‘s just rhetoric to get the crowd geeked up so they‘ll start stomping on people‘s heads, you know? They don‘t really believe that.

There is no better example than SB 1070, the law which practically all of the country misunderstood- still misunderstands- as an immigrant-control measure. To the right, most of the center, and virtually all of the mainstream media, SB 1070 is an anti-illegal immigration measure. Most of the left also misunderstands it, believing it to be an anti-immigrant act and possibly racist, though liberals were not responsible for this law, so they almost deserve a pass.

Writing on on October 28 about an ostensibly anti-immigration act crafted by State Swenator Russell Pearce, Laura Sullivan explained

The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it's upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them....

It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.

It's a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce's idea took shape.

"I did a presentation," Pearce said. "I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, 'Yeah.'"

The 50 or so people in the room included officials of the Corrections Corporation of America, according to two sources who were there.

Pearce and the Corrections Corporation of America have been coming to these meetings for years. Both have seats on one of several of ALEC's boards.

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in "a significant portion of our revenues" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

In September, Think Progress pulled together the evidence that SB 1070 would be better described as the "Private Prison Welfare Act" and noted

In April of this year, Pearce then introduced ALEC’s template as the infamous SB1070 law. Notably, the ALEC task force which helped Pearce devise his racial profiling law included Laurie Shanblum, a lobbyist from the mega-private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which previously played a role in privatizing many of Texas’ prisons. An investigation from Arizona’s KPHO-TV found more ties between SB1070 and the private prison industry: Paul Senseman, Gov. Janet Brewer’s (R-AZ) deputy chief of staff was a former lobbyist for CCA (his wife is still a lobbyist for CCA) and Chuck Coughlin, Brewer’s campaign chairman, runs the lobbying firm in Arizona that represents CCA. In These Times reporter Beau Hodai, who also reported much of SB1070′s connections to the private prison industry, has a chart to explain the relationship.

(For more on development of the legislation, see "Corporate Con Game" in In These Times, June 21, 2010.)

On the same day as the NPR report, Keith Olbermann summarized (video below) the story behind SB 1070 and interviewed a fervent opponent, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). The understated Grijalva is seen remarking "This is not just about immigration policy; this is not just about border security." Congressman, leave out the "just;" it is simply not about immigration or border security. It is about accumulating profits for the private prison industry. If, in the process, innocent people are incarcerated because the beds need to be filled for the funds to roll in, that can be passed off as collateral damage.

There are two scandals, or should-be scandals here. One involves the private prison industry, popping up throughout the country, and the other politically expedient misdirection. In Arizona, it's selling the base and the media anti-immigrant animus as an integral part of the GOP shell game but, as Digby describes, the strategy is widely applicable (emphasis mine):

I really want another villager to lecture me about how this avalanche of secret money pouring into elections doesn't really mean anything:

In the bitter U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, a local millionaire has helped launch a barrage of ads attacking the Democratic candidate a candidate who, as the state's attorney general, is prosecuting the businessman's nursing home for allegedly covering up sexual abuse, records show.

The businessman's name is Terry Forcht. And like many super-wealthy conservative donors who are quietly stoking the GOP's mid-term election surge around the nation, the extent of his investment in the 2010 campaign is both vast and, for now at least, largely unknown.

In addition to donating personally to Republican Rand Paul's upstart campaign, Forcht is the banker handling funds for American Crossroads. The conservative group was founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove and has, through its non-profit arm, American Crossroads GPS, channeled millions into this year's campaigns without identifying its donors.

American Crossroads GPS and other outside groups that shield the identity of their donors have emerged as a fixture of the 2010 campaign season, thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that loosened restrictions on political giving. The case of Forcht's opaque role in the Kentucky contest offers a glimpse at why some election reform groups believe anonymous donations are so problematic.

This is just a crude example of what's going on, of course. Every last one of these wealthy donors are basically buying themselves a get out of jail free card from all politicians of either party. They are outright buying the Republicans (who are selling themselves like street corner hookers)and threatening the Dems with more where this came from if they fail to cooperate. Sure, there are some down and dirty sleazebags like this guy who's punishing the Attorney General, but all of them --- every last one of them --- are doing this to ensure that their interests, whether legal or economic, are taken care of above all else. If there's time and energy left over they will let the rubes play with women's uteruses and punish some immigrants and minorities. But job one is making damned sure that nobody touches their ill gotten gains and nobody even thinks of holding them responsible for their crimes.

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