Feinstein, other Democrats accept donations from architect of Arizona immigration law

Mike Riggs Contributor
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Just 10 days after the Arizona legislature passed SB 1070, a much ballyhooed law aimed at reducing illegal immigration by empowering state and local law enforcement to suss out undocumented residents, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote a stern letter to Attorney General Eric Holder criticizing Arizona’s new law.

“We write to support your thorough review of the recent immigration law enacted in Arizona — a law which is troubling on many levels,” reads the April, 2010 letter that Feinstein co-signed with fellow Californian Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. “This state law…is already proving to be polarizing and hurtful.”

Fast-forward seven months: Feinstein has turned her attention from governing Arizona by proxy to discouraging the folks back home from legalizing marijuana.

What else has changed? According to OpenSecrets, Feinstein, who is not up for re-election until 2012, accepted a $2,500 campaign donation from one of the architects of SB 1070 — the Corrections Corporation of America. The Democratic Party of California has also accepted money this election cycle from CCA — $15,000, to be exact.

Late last week, NPR reported that *CCA met frequently with Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce to discuss SB 1070 and opportunities for incarcerating illegal immigrants in privately operated prisons, and that representatives of CCA made the same sales pitch in cities throughout Arizona.

That law ended up being SB 1070, which CCA helped write and that Sen. Feinstein and the Democratic Party of California criticized.

But while CCA and Feinstein’s interests stood opposed in Arizona, in California they have seemingly become aligned. The former San Francisco mayor and 18-year Senate veteran has vocally opposed any and all drug-law reform efforts dating back to 1996, when Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana. As the co-chair for the opposition committee, Feinstein has become one of the most vocal critics of Prop. 19, the California ballot initiative which would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana.

“Proposition 19 is a dangerous experiment based on false arguments and fake promises,” Feinstein said at a press conference on Friday. “Buying and consuming marijuana, in my view, is already too easy.”

Corrections Corp. of America stands to lose money if Prop. 19 passes, especially if the law doesn’t herald the end of civilization as we know it. According to records available on the California AG’s website, more than half a million Californians have been arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and roughly 135,000 have been arrested for felony possession over the last 10 years. Tennessee-based CCA only housed 8,000 California inmates as of April, but it’s lobbying to house more. Were legalization measures to catch on in other states, prison populations would decrease significantly, possibly to the point where CCA’s much-touted overflow relief services weren’t needed.

CCA has also invested heavily in substance-abuse treatment, including for marijuana. “CCA’s own research…shows that the most effective approach is to change the basic thinking patterns that lead to a destructive life of substance abuse,” the company’s website reads. “Intensive and innovative company-paid training for addictions treatment professionals helps CCA recruit and retain the best and brightest in this specialty.”

OpenSecrets shows that CCA has given money this election cycle to California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and to state Democratic parties and candidates in California, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Washington State. During the same period, the company also gave money to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and lobbied for inclusion in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for “provisions and funding related to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.”

*The two men who traveled to Benson, Arizona, in 2009 to sell city manager Glenn Nichols on a prison for female illegal immigrants and illegal immigrant children did not work for CCA, a reader points out. The two men told Nichols the prison would be a cash-cow for Benson, thanks to a law coming down the pipe from the Arizona state legislature.