Private prison operator The Geo Group (GEO) gave $125,000 to a pro-Donald Trump super PAC during the final stretch of the campaign.
The Boca Raton, Florida-based company made the donation to Rebuilding America Now, a super PAC launched over the summer with the support of Trump ally and real estate investor Tom Barrack, on November 1, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission. This is not the first time Geo has donated to the group -- it contributed $150,000 in two different donations to the super PAC in August.
Shares of The Geo Group have risen by 46% and fellow private prison company CoreCivic (CXW) (formerly Corrections Corp. of America) shares are up 72% following Trump's surprise election in November, as investors bet that a Trump presidency bodes well for those businesses.
The Department of Justice announced plans in August to end its use of private prisons, and just days later, Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said the Homeland Security Advisory Council would create a committee to review its policies and practices concerning private prisons.
In 2015, the U.S. federal government accounted for 45% of Geo's revenues. Last year, the company reported $1.84 billion in revenue.
Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group the Campaign Legal Center flagged one of Geo's August contributions earlier this year. It filed a complaint with the FEC, arguing the donation is in violation of a ban on government contractors making political contributions.
Trump cast himself as the law-and-order candidate while campaigning and a proponent of strong policing and criminal justice. He rarely spoke of private prisons, but when he did, he made clear he was in favor of them. "I think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons," he told MSNBC's Chris Matthews at a town hall event in March.
Trump's pick for Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is likely to act very early to reverse the DOJ's plans to reduce private prisons use, said policy advisory firm Beacon Advisors shortly after the president-elect announced his intention to nominate him. The firm also noted two former Sessions staffers have been paid to lobby for Geo.
The tough-on-immigration stance both Trump and Sessions share is a positive sign for private prisons as well: they provide facilities for illegal immigrants detained for deportation. GEO has contracts with U.S. Immigration Enforcement (ICE). In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security reported that undocumented immigrants were detained by ICE for an average of 33.5 days at a cost of $118.88 per day per bed.
"We can't speculate about future policy priorities, but we stand by our steadfast belief that through public-private partnerships, we can continue to provide the safest, most secure and humane facilities to meet the residential, non-penal needs of the residents in ICE's care" Geo spokesman Pablo Paez said in a statement. "We are proud of our long and strong performance record of meeting the government's needs while treating our residents with the respect and dignity they deserve."
To be sure, The Geo Group's $275,000 in donations to Rebuilding America Now are just a drop in the bucket for Rebuilding America Now.
Former WWE (WWE) CEO Linda McMahon, who Trump tapped this week to lead the Small Business Administration, gave $6 million to the super PAC throughout the election cycle. Home Depot (HD) cofounder Bernard Marcus gave millions to Rebuilding America Now as well, as did Los Angeles real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer. Andy Puzder, the fast-food CEO who Trump plans to nominate as Labor Secretary, gave $10,000.
Super PACs supporting Trump raised nearly $20 million in the final weeks of the election, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal. Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, donated $10 million to pro-Trump group Future 45.
Peter Thiel gave $1 million to Make America Number 1, a super PAC backed by the influential Robert and Rebekah Mercer, and the campaign of Ben Carson, who Trump plans to nominate as HUD Secretary, gave $100,000.