This morning, Hillary Clinton’s campaign told Fusion that she would no longer accept contributions from federally registered lobbyists or private-prison companies and said that her campaign will donate any previously raised money from private-prison lobbyists to charity.
As Jorge Rivas reports, the announcement comes after growing pressure from criminal justice reformers on Clinton and other presidential candidates to denounce the controversial—and politically powerful—industry.
Clinton had previously relied on lobbyists for private-prison companies as fundraising bundlers. In July, Lee Fang reported for The Intercept that one Clinton bundler who was a registered lobbyist with Geo Group—a company that operates a number of private jails and immigrant detention centers in the country—had raised $45,000 for her campaign. Another five bundlers were lobbyists at a firm that worked for Corrections Corporation of America, which is another infamous private prison giant.
Those two private-prison companies alone given more than $10 million to candidates and spent more than $25 million on lobbying since 1989.
The private-prison industry has already become a surprisingly significant part of the presidential election. Republicans often tout the industry as a cost-effective solution to prison overcrowding while Democrats blast them for abysmal conditions for prisoners and pay-to-play influence over criminal justice reform.
Yesterday, billionaire Carl Icahn, who has made his fortune as a ruthless corporate raider, issued a clear demand to Congress: cut corporate tax rates or face a whirlwind of outside spending from his new $150 million super PAC.
“I believe the time has come to also hold Senators and Congressmen accountable for the current gridlock in Congress that prevents important legislation from being passed,” Icahn wrote. “This is why I’m currently preparing to form a Super PAC with an initial commitment of $150 million from me personally.”
As Paul Blumenthal reports for The Huffington Post, Icahn wants Congress to pass legislation that would allow corporations to bring home at a huge tax discount the $2 trillion that’s currently being stashed in tax havens. Not coincidentally, Icahn is one of the biggest investors in Apple, which most notoriously keeps nearly $200 billion in profits abroad.
The billionaire argues that new policy framework advanced by Senators Rob Portman and Chuck Schumer would discourage the controversial practice of “corporate inversions,” in which a company acquires a foreign entity and then transfers its central business operations to that entity—thus avoiding domestic corporate taxes. However, Blumenthal notes that their proposal would allow corporations to funnel money back into the country at an obscenely low one-time tax rate, and that there are several other ways—such as a proposal from Senator Dick Durbin—to avoid such corporate inversions.
In order to twist the arm of Congress members who can fast-track the legislation, Icahn has brazenly threatened to dump millions to unseat them in their next elections. Obviously, this has angered good-government advocates.
“As surely as billionaires like to own sports teams as a form of conspicuous consumption,” Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said, “we can expect them increasingly to fund personal super PACs as a form of self-aggrandizement—as well as to drive forward policies on everything from taxation to gambling to advance their own bottom lines.”
That Icahn even has the ability to dole out such a threat is a clear testament to the erosion of campaign-finance law in the wake of Citizens United. And if Icahn’s strategy works, it’ll be the starkest rebuttal of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s deciding opinion from that case, in which he boldly wrote, “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File This March 20, 2013, file photo shows Culinary Union workers demonstrating along Las Vegas Boulevard, protesting against their contract negotiations with Deutsche Bank in Las Vegas. Welcome to The American Prospect ’s weekly newsletter highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. (Compiled by Justin Miller —Edited by Harold Meyerson ) T he thirst for political drama in the nascent 2016 campaign is insatiable—and Vice President Joe Biden’s very public hemming and hawing over whether to jump into the Democratic field is an irresistible story line for Beltway insiders. He’s rumored to be announcing his decision in the coming days. So what does this mean for the labor movement? Well, Biden already appears to be indulging in some courtship of union leadership. Late last week, he reportedly had a personal call with Harold Schaitberger, head of the International Association of Firefighters, a politically important union that...
AP Photo/John Locher Democratic presidential candidates from left, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee take the stage before the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, October 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. Welcome to The Labor Prospect, our weekly round-up highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. T here were plenty of issues that those in the labor movement were eager to see addressed in last night's first Democratic debate. There was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Clinton recently disavowed, partly in response to Sanders’ labor-friendly trade views, partly to put Joe Biden, who has to support the TPP, in a box. There were Obamacare reforms. Clinton, following Sanders, came out against the Cadillac tax, which is a big sticking point for labor unions. Then there was the minimum wage—Sanders and O’...