Prison Company Pays Record Fine for Political Gifts

A private prison company agreed Wednesday to pay a record $300,000 fine to settle allegations it failed to report gifts to New York lawmakers that included expensive chocolates and free transportation.

Some of the lawmakers receiving the gifts had pressed state officials to keep money flowing to contracts held by the company, Correctional Services Corp. of Sarasota, Fla., to operate halfway houses to the New York prison system.

The company no longer has any contracts with the state.

The five-member Lobbying Commission approved the settlement Wednesday afternoon. A lawyer for the company said CSC officials had agreed to it earlier in the day.

David Grandeau, executive director of the Lobbying Commission, said the size of the fine "shows the seriousness of the transgression."

CSC President James Slattery noted the company had admitted to no wrongdoing, saying in a statement that the settlement was "in the best interest of the company" because it would avoid further expense.

In addition to the civil penalty, district attorneys in Manhattan and Albany are looking at the interaction between lawmakers and CSC for possible criminal violations. It is illegal for lawmakers to accept gifts or other services worth more than $75 each.

The $300,000 lobbying fine would be the largest ever imposed by the commission against a single company. In 2000, Donald Trump and associates of the real estate magnate were fined $250,000 for failing to accurately report their attempts to keep casino gambling from being legalized in New York state. Trump owns casinos in neighboring New Jersey.

CSC's lobbying activities came under scrutiny after state Assemblywoman Gloria Davis, a Democrat, resigned her seat in January and pleaded guilty to bribery in connection with helping another company. As part of a plea bargain, Davis admitted accepting free rides to and from Albany, the state capital, from CSC in return for helping the company with its state contracts.