In recent years, the private prison company GEO Group has held its annual leadership conference at venues near its Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters. But this year, the company moved its gathering to a Miami golf resort owned by President Trump, notes the Washington Post. The event last week, during which executives and wardens gathered for four days of meetings, dinner receptions and golf outings at luxurious Trump National Doral, followed an intense effort by GEO Group to align itself with the president and his administration. During last year’s election, a company subsidiary gave $225,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC. GEO gave an additional $250,000 to the president’s inaugural committee. It also hired as outside lobbyists a major Trump fundraiser and two former aides to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In turn, GEO Group has had newfound success in Trump’s Washington. The company secured the administration’s first contract for an immigration detention center, a deal worth tens of millions a year. And its stock price has tripled since hitting a low last year when the Obama administration sought to phase out the use of private prisons — a decision that Sessions reversed. GEO Group’s achievements show how a company that has long relied heavily on doing business with the government — and whose business model was under threat — is thriving in the Trump era. GEO Group has regained its footing while escalating its spending on traditional tactics such as lobbying and campaign donations. The Doral event represents a potential avenue of influence that is unique to Trump: the chance for a corporation to engage in a private business transaction with the president. “It is the opposite of draining the swamp,” said Carl Takei of the ACLU’s National Prison Project.