Private prisons bankrolling Trump campaign as election looms

CoreCivic and GEO Group made about $1.3 billion under contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year

Top executives of the two largest private prison companies in the country are ramping up donations to President Trump and other Republicans before this fall's elections to safeguard lucrative boosts to their businesses from his policies.

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CoreCivic and GEO Group -- which operate prisons around the nation -- stand to lose ground in a multibillion-dollar industry if Democrat Joe Biden ousts Trump and delivers on his promise to end the use of private facilities that progressives argue fuel for-profit detention.

Under Trump -- who has made detaining tens of thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers a huge part of his focus in office -- the two groups made about $1.3 billion in contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year alone. That's about 30 percent of their revenue, according to the Associated Press.

George Zoley, GEO Group's founder and CEO, has given $514,800 to Republicans and only $10,000 to Democrats during the current election cycle, campaign finance records show. According to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, people and groups linked to GEO have made more than $1.7 million in contributions, the vast majority to Republicans.

CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger has donated $26,300 to Republicans during this election season. People and groups linked to the company have given $228,000, primarily to the GOP.

“Any questions or inferences about whether or not CoreCivic prefers the Republican Party, because it is better for our business, are misleading and portray our company in a false light,” said Ryan Gustin, a company spokesman.

GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said any political contributions “should not be construed as an endorsement of all policies or positions adopted by any individual candidate.”

“The services we provide today are in no way different from the high quality, professional services we provided for eight years under President Obama’s administration,” Paez said.

Both CEOs are hoping that their stocks, which have plummeted after a strong surge at the beginning of Trump's presidency, will rebound after the election, regardless of who the winner is.

The prisons have already entered into 10-year contracts with the Trump administration for several immigration detention centers in Texas and California that would be hard to undo under a new president.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, private prison companies operate about 80% of beds in the immigration system. GEO Group and CoreCivic are the two biggest contractors.

The two largest contractors of private prisons in the nation have both faced heavy scrutiny after allegations that they mistreat their employees and detainees -- accusations which the companies have denied.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.