Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana) in a police photo at his booking last year on assault charges. (Image: Gallatin County Justice Court.)
By Alex Kotch
The second-richest member of Congress made a six-figure purchase earlier this year of stock in a major private prison company that’s profiting handsomely from increased immigrant detention under Trump administration policy, federal records show.
Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana) bought between $100,001 and $250,000 worth of CoreCivic stock on Jan. 29, according to a transaction report reviewed by TYT. One month earlier, Gianforte had unloaded CoreCivic stock in the same value range.
The CoreCivic political action committee donated $1,000 to Gianforte’s campaign on Dec. 12, 2017.
2017 was CoreCivic’s best year on record regarding contracts from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), having brought in $135 million from the agency. The company is now on track to beat that total from ICE contracts by the end of the year.
ICE spending on CoreCivic contracts by year. (Source: USASpending.gov)
Gianforte himself had a run-in with law enforcement. On the eve of his 2017 special congressional election, Gianforte assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs and then lied to police about it. The next day, he won the race to become Montana’s at-large representative in the House. Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to community service, anger management classes, and a $385 fine.
CoreCivic operates the only private prison in Montana, the Crossroads Correctional Center. In a public debate over the financial terms, the governor decided not to renew the state’s contract with CoreCivic, which expires next year.
The company has been the subject of numerous abuse complaints and is facing multiple lawsuits. The Tennessee branch of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote last year to state legislators that problems identified in a recent audit were part of a continuous “pattern of abuse, mismanagement and violence at [CoreCivic] facilities” nationally.
Gianforte isn’t the only member of Congress who owns stock in a private prison company. As of the end of 2016, Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) owned 1,700 shares of stock, worth roughly $50,000 at the time, in GEO Group, the company that has benefited the most from recent ICE contracts. Texas is home to more than 20 GEO Group facilities, including several near the border with Mexico.
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) financial statement. (Source: House clerk.)
Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida owns as much as $30,000 worth of CoreCivic stock. The company operates two facilities in her state. TYT reported last week that Democrats have split on the issue of private-prison donations, with several Democrats telling TYT they no longer accept such donations. On July 1, the Florida Democratic Party passed a resolution to reject donations from private prisons and their lobbyists. Some U.S. House members from the state, including Charlie Crist and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, have signed on, but Frankel hasn’t made a statement on the issue.
On Wednesday, the California Democratic Party announced a similar resolution.
The nation's largest state political party rescinds contributions from the private prison industry. The activism around ICE has been incredibly effective. pic.twitter.com/j653VaXDXf
— David Dayen (@ddayen) July 11, 2018
The offices of the three representatives did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.