Crash! Inconvenient Facts Demolish Rachel Maddow's Premise on Rationale for Arizona's Anti-Illegals Law

Rachel Maddow has nothing but contempt for the so-called Southern strategy by which Republicans have allegedly courted the votes of Southern white males through veiled or overt race-baiting.

Which makes it all the more peculiar for Maddow to engage in a Southwestern strategy of slandering Republicans as racist toward Latinos in order for her to garner votes for Democrats.

Here is the most recent example of Maddow doing this, on her MSNBC show Aug. 12 and 13. On both nights, reporter Morgan Loew of the CBS affiliate KPHO in Phoenix was one of her guests.

On her Aug. 12 show, Maddow described how three inmates escaped from Arizona State Prison in Kingman, the latest in a string of break-outs from privatized prisons in Arizona stretching back to 1996. Maddow then segued to saying this (first part of embedded video) --

MADDOW: After this incredible record of achievement, after all of these prison escapes from private prisons, how did the state of Arizona decide to proceed with the issue of prison privatization? Even as prison privatization declines around the country, even as state budget cuts make it so that many states are closing facilities or reducing their sentencing guidelines so that fewer people are in prison altogether, how did the state of Arizona decide to proceed?

As Maddow says this, the graphics on screen show a photo of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a map of Arizona and the capitalized word "INCARCERATION," with "INC" set off in red font.

MADDOW: Last year Arizona state officials moved legislation to try to privatize the whole state prison system! Arizona planned to seek bids from private companies for nine of the state's 10 prison complexes. It was the first effort by a state to put its entire prison system under private control.

Great news for the private prison companies, right? Great news in particular for Corrections Corporation of America, which is the single largest private prison company in the country. CCA already runs six detention facilities in Arizona. They hold prisoners from other states at their facilities in Arizona. They also hold the federal contract to hold federal detainees in the state.

Here's where Maddow makes her shabby insinuation, one that backfired after what Loew would soon reveal --

MADDOW: So, you know what would be awesome for a company like that? You know what would be awesome, it would be really awesome for the shareholders and everybody? If the state of Arizona started producing a whole lot more federal detainees, people detained on federal issues. Federal issues like, I don't know, say, immigration violations?

Footage is then shown of Brewer signing SB 1070, Arizona's anti-illegals law, as Maddow says ... --

MADDOW: Imagine the boon to the private for-profit prison company that has the contract to house federal detainees in Arizona if Arizona came up with a wacky plan to arrest a lot more people for suspected immigration violations. Imagine how awesome a law like SB 1070 would be for an industry like the for-profit private prison industry in Arizona.

Maddow proceeded to air a report by Loew for KPHO in Phoenix, detailing how Brewer's deputy chief of staff, Paul Senseman, is a former CCA lobbyist whose wife still lobbies for the company; and Brewer policy advisor Chuck Coughlin owns High Ground Public Affairs consulting, which represents CCA. (To see the Maddow segment in its entirety, link here).

In Loew's report, Brewer was quoted as saying that Senseman "does not advise the governor on these issues"; CCA stated that it "did not lobby at any time ... anyone in Arizona on the immigration law."

To remind viewers of her insinuation about Brewer's rationale for signing SB 1070, Maddow added this --

MADDOW: Then again, why would you need to lobby when two of the governor's top people are your lobbyist, your former lobbyist, and/or married to your lobbyist?

But after Maddow introduced Loew, and Loew rehashed the details of his reporting on Senseman, Coughlin and CCA, Loew mentioned this awkward fact right at the end of his interview with Maddow (second part of embedded video, starting at 1:56) --

LOEW: In addition, in Arizona we have a mindset among a couple of key legislators that privatizing the prison industry is a good thing. As you mentioned, they tried to privatize the entire system last year. The governor did veto that after the state corrections director sent her a letter saying, look, we can't imagine having death row inmates in private prison systems and having death row inmates being taken care of by the lowest common bidder.

Excuse me, did you say "the governor" -- by whom you mean Jan Brewer, correct? -- vetoed the bill to privatize nearly all of Arizona's state prisons? Shortly before she signed SB 1070, the law that would create vast penal colonies of suspected illegal immigrants? Apparently Brewer missed the memo on this fine-tuned, lucrative conspiracy.

Maddow's flimsy premise having been demolished before her eyes -- by a simpatico guest, no less -- she invited Loew back the next night to harrumph about links between Republican state senator Russell Pearce, a major backer of SB 1070, and the private prison industry. (full segment from Maddow show linked here). Once again, Loew served up an inconvenient fact right at the end of his discussion with Maddow (third part of embedded video, starting at 2:28) --

MADDOW: Morgan, am I also right that in thinking that Russell Pearce was the man behind the effort last year to privatize all of Arizona's state prisons?

LOEW: He was. He sponsored that legislation and we looked through his legislative record and it looks like as far back as 2003 he was pushing legislation that was calling for the privatization of state prison beds, I think 1,000 beds back in 2003, another 1,400 before that. But the biggest one is the bill that you just referred to, which would have handed over our entire prison system to the private prison industry. Now, that bill was vetoed but another bill passed that essentially did the same thing. Last year, our prison system would have, in a sense, most of it, would have been handed over to the private prison industry, but none of those companies would come forward to bid on them.

Once again, this fine-tuned, lucrative conspiracy -- thwarted by the alleged conspirators. 

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts