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Conflict of interest scandal brewing for top aides in Arizona governor’s office

Gov. Jan Brewer

Recent local and national media reports have revealed that two of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s top advisors have lobbying connections to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison management company which would benefit financially from an influx of prisoners who were turned over to the federal government as illegal immigrants.

One of the provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law is that all parties arrested must have their immigration status checked before they can be released.

CCA, the country’s largest private prison operator, manages six prisons in Arizona and holds a contract to house federal detainees, including illegal immigrants.  In response to the media reports, CCA released a statement which asserted, “We did not lobby… at any time… anyone in Arizona on immigration law.”

However, Governor Brewer’s deputy chief of staff, Paul Senseman, was formerly a registered lobbyist for CCA, and his wife is still employed as a registered lobbyist for the company.

Additionally, Chuck Coughlin, who is campaign chairman for the Governor’s reelection campaign and is one of her top policy advisors, is President of High Ground Public Affairs Consultants, which is also an active lobbyist for CCA.

These and other revelations were first broadcast by the CBS News affiliate in Phoenix, KPHO, and its investigative reporter Morgan Loew, who was shown asking the governor about the lobbying activities of her two aides. The issue surfaced again a few days later in an interview of Loew by Rachel Maddow on the MSNBC network program, “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

In Loew’s interview with Governor Brewer, the governor refused to answer questions about whether she had discussed the state’s new immigration law, SB 1070, with Senseman or Coughlin.

But the Governor’s office later released a statement saying that “Paul Senseman does not advise the governor on these issues.”

The governor’s statement did not mention Coughlin.

In the Maddow interview, Loew indicated that while it is not known what Coughlin proposed to the governor, if anything, about whether to sign the controversial SB 1070, it is known that Coughlin discussed the subject with the governor.

As previously reported in Government Security News on August 3, Federal Judge Susan Bolton recently struck down four provisions of the Arizona law on the basis that they interfered with the federal government’s obligation to establish immigration law.

Loew also stated that Corrections Corporation of America is already paid $11 million per month to house federal prisoners, and a request has been put forward to double this amount by adding 5,000 beds to the CCA contract.

Station KPHO also reported that Governor Brewer has made a number of statements to national media outlets -- to the dismay of her state’s hotel and tourism industry -- about decapitated bodies being found in the desert and allegations that “almost all illegal immigrants are bringing drugs across the border.”

However, said KPHO, calls to all of Arizona’s border county medical examiners have revealed no headless bodies, and U.S. Border Patrol officials have said that her statement about a high percentage of immigrants’ bringing drugs across the border is false.

In fact, a look at the data from the FBI, said KPHO, shows that crime in Arizona is actually down, with murders in Phoenix dropping by 50 percent since 2003, the number of border crossings down, and Border Patrol numbers showing that half as many immigrants are being arrested in 2010 as occurred in 2004.

Governor Brewer is running for reelection against Democrat Terry Goddard, the state’s attorney general, who opposes Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law. According to recent polls, Brewer is ahead in public opinion by 19 points.


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