As I've reported both on this blog and in this week's Portland Phoenix, Governor Paul LePage was helped into office by the largess of fifty out of state corporations and industry associations, to which he now owes a considerable political debt.
One of those, the private prison builder/operator Corrections Corporation of America, seems to be getting an excellent return on their $25,000 investment in LePage's candidacy. Even before being sworn in, Mr. LePage vowed to help CCA build Maine's first private prison in Milo. Now he's showing how he plans to do that.
Yesterday, Gov. LePage announced he is nominating one of CCA's own wardens to head the Department of Corrections. MPBN reports nominee Joseph Ponte has served as a warden of a CCA prison in Nevada since 2006, though the governor didn't highlight this in his written comments to the press.
CCA, which has spent tens of thousands in lobbying to shape Maine's current biennial corrections budget, recently hired outgoing House Republican leader Josh Tardy (R-Newport) as their principal lobbyist. Mr. Tardy has his work cut out for him. As I reported in the Phoenix, CCA has refused to build the Milo prison unless Maine changes a law that prevents Maine prisoners from being housed in private prisons.
Will be interesting to see if Maine's newly-Republican legislature decides to go along with CCA's plans, or if they instead have a look at the company's record.
[Update, 10:41 pm: From MPBN: "Ponte confirmed that he still holds stock in CCA and that he is unwilling to divest himself of any financial interests should the state seek a future agreement with CCA. Ponte did say that, as commissioner, he would seek to avoid potential conflicts of interest."]