Critic of Trump border policies took cash from private-prison operators: report

A vocal critic of President Donald Trump's immigration policies is a top recipent of campaign donations from operators of privately run prisons, according to a report.

The 2016 re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., received a total of $7,500 from private prison operators, the Seattle Times reported, citing Federal Election Commission filings and data from OpenSecrets.org, a campaign-finance transparency organization.

The sum includes $5,000 from the Florida-based political-action committee for the GEO Group, the nation’s largest private-prison firm, the data show.

GEO Group operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., which has faced protests and lawsuits alleging mistreatment of detainees facing deportation, the Times reported.

Aside from the GEO Group, Murray also received a $2,500 donation from the PAC for Management and Training Corp., a Utah company that runs facilities housing immigrant detainees, according to the Times.

Eli Zupnik, a Murray campaign spokesman, dismissed the donations as “inconsequential,” telling the Times that she had received thousands of donations in her last campaign, “none of which would influence her decisions.”

“Senator Murray is a leading critic of President Trump’s horrendous policies that are increasing the needless and inhumane detention of immigrants and families,” Zupnik wrote in an emailed statement obtained by the Times.

“Senator Murray is a leading critic of President Trump’s horrendous policies that are increasing the needless and inhumane detention of immigrants and families.”

— Eli Zupnik, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“She has spent years working to shine a spotlight on what she called the ‘highly disturbing’ conditions at private detention centers, and she has been consistently aggressive and vocal in her opposition to federal spending on for-profit prisons that lack any meaningful transparency or accountability.”

Murray has condemned the Trump administration over the separation of children from parents and has been critical of federal taxpayer money going to private prisons.

“We don’t know where those children are,” said Murray, the ranking member of the Senate committee that oversees the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Murray sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar, demanding to know “how parents and children are being informed about each other’s safety, where they are located, the age of the children and if the tender-aged children are being cared for appropriately, and if and when parents and children will be reunited,” the Times reported.

“We have no idea what they’re doing,” Murray said. “It is just beyond reprehensible that the administration is not answering these questions.”

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, was the only other Washington state member of Congress to receive private-prison firm money in 2016 -- a $2,500 donation also from the GEO Group’s PAC, the Times reported.

So far, none has received donations in 2018.