COLUMBUS, Ohio — Newly-elected Gov. John Kasich’s long-time advisor and former congressional chief of staff Don Thibaut will lobby the administration on behalf of a private prison operator, according to documents his new lobbying firm filed earlier this week.
Corrections Corporation of America, a company that designs, builds, manages and operates state prisons and local jails throughout the country, retained Thibaut’s firm – The Credo Company – last December in anticipation of prison privatization in the state. Kasich has said he will consider privatizing several state functions, including prisons, in an attempt to close Ohio’s $8 million deficit.
CCA spokesman Steve Owen told reporters the company hired The Credo Company to inform the administration of the the benefits of private prison operations, which proponents say will lower state correctional costs.
“We have always retained a presence in the states where we operate, as well as in states where we have a business interest,” Owen told reporters. “Our hope would be that Credo would carry our educational message that public-private partnerships bring the best of both worlds, the strong accountability and oversight of government and the cost-efficiency and innovation of business.”
CCA operates one federal prison in Ohio, the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, but no state facilities. CCA’s competitor, Management Training Corp., operates two other privately run prisons in the state –North Coast Correctional Facility and Lake Erie Correctional Institution.
Thibaut and lobbying partner Robert Kovey also registered to lobby for firms specializing in energy, education, technology and engineering, according to information contained in the company’s business filings. Clients registered with the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission include American Electric Power Inc., IGS Energy, Bluemile, IQ Innovations, and MS Consultants Inc.
Kasich’s new prisons director, Gary Mohr, also spent five years as a consultant at CCA.
Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said Mohr spent most of his career in Ohio’s public prison system, and worked for CCA between 2004 and 2009.
“The governor’s placed a variety of privatization options on the table and he believes that Director Mohr's experiences in both the public and private corrections industries brings value to his position and provides him with a unique perspective,” LoParo told reporters.
Owen said Mohr is a nationally respected expert in corrections management with knowledge of both the public and private sectors.
LoParo said Mohr has no lingering financial interest in CCA, such as a pension, but that Mohr plans to recuse himself from all private prison matters to avoid a conflict of interest.
Kasich, a Republican, took office last month.