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Human Rights Anniversary

Should You Be Concerned?

Private contractors of for-profit immigrant detention facilities in the United States rake in billions of dollars in revenue each year. Unbeknownst to many, the three largest contractors, GEO Group Inc., CoreCivic Inc., and Management and Training Corporation (MTC), are funneling millions of dollars in campaign donations to candidates at the local, state, and federal levels. Each armed with their own PAC, these three companies have given more than $4 million dollars to campaigns since 2016. 

As the 2022 midterm election cycle begins, the issue of money in politics will once again take center stage. In recent memory, increasingly more candidates have made vows to not take money from PACs or corporations, or have utilized catchy phrases on the campaign trail promising to “keep money out of politics!”

For companies whose profits depend on immigrant detention, it feels especially concerning that campaign donations could be used to secure influence over our elected officials.

But why is campaign finance so important? The fact is, our elections are expensive and private immigrant detention contractors are not the only ones with skin in the game. The total cost of the 2020 election reached $14 billion dollars, making it the most expensive election cycle ever and twice as expensive as the 2016 election cycle. 

For companies whose profits depend on immigrant detention, it feels especially concerning that campaign donations could be used to secure influence over our elected officials and generate even more pressure on the U.S. government to maintain or expand the for-profit immigrant detention system. As a result, the U.S.’ controversial approach to immigration enforcement remains the same over time. 

In the United States, one voice should equal one vote. But money has a voice of its own and most of us lack the financial resources to compete with the thousands of PACs that exist. 

Consider the percentage of low-dollar campaign contributions given in comparison to high-dollar campaign contributions during the 2020 election cycle. Only 1.44% of the entire population gave a donation more than $200. But this small percentage of the population accounted for more than 76% of all contributions. And in recent years, for-profit detention companies are making moves to expand their political influence.

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During the 2020 election cycle, GEO gave $818,100 to Republican candidates and affiliated PACs and organizations, and $46,978 to Democratic candidates and affiliated PACs and organizations. Besides massive donations to national Republican organizations such as the NRSC and NRCC, GEO donated formidable amounts to candidates in Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. 

CoreCivic-Donations
GEO-Donations
MTC-Donations

Similar to GEO, the breakdown of CoreCivic’s campaign donations heavily favor Republicans. $250,610 went to Republican candidates and affiliated PACs and organizations, and $21,500 to Democratic candidates and affiliated PACs and organizations. A majority of donations given during this cycle went to campaigns at the federal level, including high profile senate races in Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, and Arizona. 

In contrast to GEO and CoreCivic, MTC was split almost evenly between donations to Republicans and Democrats during the 2020 cycle. MTC gave $118,500 to Republican candidates and affiliated PACs and organizations, and $113,750 to Democratic candidates and affiliated PACs and organizations. The largest donations given by MTC primarily went to Democrats. 

Campaign finance can have a massive impact on the accountability of public officials and the transparency of campaigns. As constituents we have the right—arguably the responsibility—to scrutinize not only our public officials but also those that believe that they can buy power and influence through massive campaign donations. 

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The bottom line is that candidates of both parties greatly benefit from PACs, even if their policy platforms seemingly clash with the very corporations and PACs that help fund their campaigns. Unfortunately there will always be candidates that violate the public’s trust by promising one thing while simultaneously receiving money from powerful PACs. So as we embark on another election season, it’s important to keep our public officials accountable. To look up data on campaign finances and spending, visit the Federal Election Commission or OpenSecrets

Emma Peca