No candidate benefited more from the largess of private prisons last year than Florida’s Rick Scott. And now the Republican senator is standing up for the controversial industry in the face of financial threats.
In a tweet Monday, Scott criticized Bank of America because the financial institution halted business with the detention centers and private prisons used by the federal government to fulfill President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
The company, Scott noted, received a $20 billion bailout during the financial crisis. Scott asserted companies that criticize the policies of the federal government, “shouldn’t benefit from doing business with the federal government.”
Bank of America paid back the 2009 bailout with interest.
With an announcement last month that it would cease lending to for-profit prisons, Bank of America joined other Wall Street bankers cutting ties with the corporate giants benefiting from the detention of children and separation of families under Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.
“Lacking further legal and policy clarity, and in recognition of the concerns of our employees and stakeholders in the communities we serve, it is our intention to exit these relationships," Bank of America said in a statement to the Washington Post.
One of those private prison companies affected, GEO Group, saw its stock price drop 4 percent soon after the bank’s announcement, the Post reported. GEO Group is a Boca Raton company that has donated heavily to Florida Republicans over the years, including Scott.
The company, which operates five facilities in Florida, and its CEO George Zoley donated a combined $414,000 last year to Scott’s campaign for Senate and various connected political committees. It doesn’t appear that any 2018 candidate in the country received more aid from GEO Group than Scott.
Scott put at least $65 million of his own money into the race and didn’t rely heavily on donations, making the financial support from GEO Group a considerable contribution.
GEO Group is also represented by Scott’s favorite lobbyist, influential Florida power broker Brian Ballard.
After the story published, spokesman Chris Hartline further clarified Scott’s tweet in a statement: “If financial institutions disagree with the policies of the federal government, they’re welcome to advocate changing them. They’re also welcome to completely cut ties with the federal government. But bowing to political pressure from the far left and criticizing the hardworking men and women of law enforcement while benefiting from their financial relationship with the U.S. government is hypocrisy at its worst.”
None of Bank of America’s public statements criticized law enforcement officers, nor do officers work for the companies that the bank has cut ties with.