US: Strange Bedfellows
Corrections Corporation of America's Political Connections
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.