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US: Strange Bedfellows

Corrections Corporation of America's Political Connections
by Alex FriedmannPrison Legal News
June 1st, 1997

  • Corrections Corporation of America's (CCA) connection with local politics began when the Nashville-based company was formed during Governor Lamar Alexander's administration. When CCA made a bid to operate in Tennessee's entire prison system in 1985, the governor's wife, Honey Alexander, was criticized for owning $5,000 of CCA stock. She realized a substantial profit ($100,000) when she converted the stock to a blind trust in order to avoid an apparent conflict of interest.

  • CCA chairman emeritus Thomas Beasley, who co-founded the company in 1983, was previously a chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

  • Among CCA's board members is Clayton McWhorter, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Tennesee governor in 1994.

  • From 1994-96, Doctor Crants, CCA's chief executive officer, and CCA's chairman emeritus Thomas Beasley donated at least $60,491 to Tennessee lawmakers - including $38,500 to Sundquist's re-election campaign (this includes donations from Beasley's wife, Wendy). In 1996 alone, Crants donated $22,450 to 46 state political candidates, including $2,000 to Rep. Randy Rinks, House Democratic Caucus chairman; and $1350 to Senator Jim Kyle, chairman of the Select Oversight Committee on Corrections. CCA has seven registered political lobbyists in Tennessee.

  • In 1995, Governor Sundquist endorsed a controversial arrangement whereby CCA could contract with Hardeman County, TN, to construct and operate a 1,540-bed "jail," funded with $47 million in municipal bonds guaranteed by the state, to house state prisoners. This arrangement circumvented a TN state statute that allows only one privately-managed state prison to operate in Tennessee at a time.

  • State Senator Robert Rochelle, who received at least $1,000 campaign contributions from CCA board members, sponsored a bill to permit privatization of any newly-built state prisons. He has sponsored other legislation on behalf of CCA.

  • Peaches Simkins, Governor Sundquist's former Chief of Staff, reportedly owned CCA stock while she was advising the governor on prison privatization.

  • The Speaker of the House in Tennessee's General Assembly, Jimmy Naifeh, is married to CCA political lobbyist Betty Anderson.

  • In terms of connections on a U.S. Congressional level, CCA employs several former high-ranking members of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as Dr. Tyree Tanner, the brother of U.S. Representative John S. Tanner.