(WASHINGTON)—A giant private prison company’s spending at President Donald Trump’s hotel in D.C. raises “serious concerns about possible corruption, or the appearance of corruption,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) wrote in a letter sent yesterday.
Their letter to the GEO Group’s CEO George Zoley is a reaction to a Project On Government Oversight (POGO) investigation co-published in The Daily Beast. POGO exposed a GEO Group executive’s spending at the Trump hotel as the company lobbied the Trump administration to cover millions of dollars in legal costs and intervene in lawsuits accusing GEO of forced labor and human trafficking at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers.
In correspondence with ICE, Zoley estimated fighting the lawsuits could cost GEO Group $15-20 million. “We urgently implore DOJ to take over the defense of these lawsuits and reimburse GEO for its costs,” Zoley wrote to ICE in 2018. ICE declined to pick up GEO’s legal tab, but the Justice Department intervened in one lawsuit earlier this year.
The lawmakers wrote that GEO's spending at the Trump hotel “raise questions about whether GEO is attempting to curry favor with the President by funneling money to the Trump family through the Trump Organization."
"Whether industry sees the Trump International Hotel as a way to 'stay to play' and curry favor with the Trump administration has been a major concern for watchdog organizations,” said Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the Project On Government Oversight. “I'm really encouraged to see members of Congress trying to get to the bottom of that important question.”
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Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing.
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