GEO Group, the private prison provider and political sugar daddy to a bevy of local elected officials ranging from Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer to state Senate Democratic Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Democrat Todd Gloria, is the target of a critical Homeland Security Department audit. Surprise visits to an Immigration & Customs Enforcement detention facility run by GEO in Adelanto, California turned up a host of horrors, including “nooses in detainee cells, improper and overly restrictive segregation, and inadequate detainee medical care,” per the June 3 report.
Issues at two other ICE processing centers operated by GEO in LaSalle, Louisiana, and Aurora, Colorado were “minor and easily fixed during our visits,” auditors said. At Adelanto, on the other hand, “chicken smelled foul and appeared to be spoiled; and food in the freezer was expired.” After news broke here last year of GEO’s contributions to Atkins and Gloria, each announced they would disgorge the tainted cash by making donations from their campaign fund to non-profits of their choice. Assembly Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, whose financial support came from CoreCivic, another private prison contractor, did the same. Faulconer, who has accepted GEO employees’ campaign cash as well as GEO contributions to his charity One San Diego has made no move to rebate the funds. GEO’s latest One San Diego donation of $5000 came April 15, per the mayor’s disclosure reports.
Big money hugs
Nathan Fletcher, who got elected to the county Board of Supervisors last year with the aid of hundreds of thousands of dollars routed to the local Democratic Party through wife Lorena Gonzalez’s Assembly campaign fund, is returning the favor. “It’s incredible to see all the amazing work she does in the State Legislature and I’m so happy to be supporting her run for Secretary of State,” said Fletcher in an emailed invite to a June 15 fundraiser. “The trust we all have in her as a legislator and advocate is why I am teaming up with Congressman Scott Peters, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, Senator Toni Atkins, State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Bob Nelson, and “many others to host her kick off right here in San Diego.” Property records show that the Robinson Mews venue of the party belongs to ex-San Diego Port District commissioner Robert E. Nelson, who quit that role in May 2017, saying his newly created PR and “strategic planning “ company, Manolatos Nelson Murphy, would create too many conflicts of interest for him. “The way the state laws work on conflicts of interest, it isn’t just a question of what I get paid for,” said Nelson, 65. “It’s what the company gets paid for, even if it’s in the service of others.”
Current Nelson clients, according to the company website, include San Diego Gas & Electric and the San Diego Unified School District. So far, Gonzalez’s quest to become California Secretary of State has picked up backing from an assortment of special interests including $5000 each from San Diego’s Anesthesia Service Medical Group and plaintiff’s lawyer Reza Torkzadeh of Irvine. The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians of Oakhurst, California and the Motor Vehicle Software Corp of Agoura Hills each came up with $15,000. L.A.’s William Morris Endeavor Entertainment kicked in $7800.
Greg Campbell, ex-chief of staff for then-Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and her predecessor, fellow Democrat John A. Pérez of Los Angeles, has filed papers to ply his lucrative post-legislative lobbying trade in San Diego. Campbell’s Sacramento-based influence peddling outfit Campbell Strategy and Advocacy will be pitching city officials regarding West Sacramento’s weed-dealing Continuum regarding “issues related to the cannabis industry,” per his firm’s June 6 disclosure with the city clerk’s office. Continuum is run by Canadian cannabis company Origin House, which is set to be snatched up by Chicago’s Cresco Labs for $850 million. The deal is so big that United States antitrust law enforcers asked for more information about it on June 11, holding up the final sale. According to an April report in the Chicago Tribune, Cresco already grows marijuana in California, employing about 60 people in the state. In addition to Continuum, Campbell’s Sacramento lobbying clients include bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric; San Diego-based Sempra Energy; Bridgepoint Education; payday lender Ace Cash Express; and the city of Fresno, per filings with the California Secretary of State’s office. As always, local politicos are likely to cultivate the new lobbyist in town for as many campaign contributions and campaign connections he can come up with. Noted Cal-Matters when Campbell left his Assembly gig in December 2015: “He helped organize campaigns that elected some members to the Assembly. That work, which he is required by law to do outside his full-time service in the Capitol, helped Assembly Democrats win a two-thirds supermajority in 2012.”