Although critics of the NRA's stance on school safety--putting an armed police or security officer in every school building in the country as part of the --have been swift to criticize the gun rights organization's lucrative connections with the firearms industry, former Arkansas Congressman Asa Hutchinson's business ties with the world's largest private employers of security officers have gone unnoticed in the media.
Based in Swedin, the transnational corporation Securitas provides a wide range of security services; one "customer segment" is education security. Securitas' website lists several case studies of campus security.
Public school systems in Tulsa, Detroit, Washington DC and other places have contracted with Securitas for school security guard personnel. News accounts suggest that some Securitas school security officers, like those in Tulsa, are or have been armed; in 2006, the Tulsa World reported that a guard shot at dogs that were attacking a student and teacher (Andrea Eger, "School's guard shoots at dogs," Tulsa World, March 30, 2006, Nexis All News, accessed 1/6/2013).
Asa Hutchinson's Securitas Connections
Former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and a top Homeland Security official, Hutchinson is on the board of directors for Pinkerton Government Services, a subsidiary of Securitas that provides security officers and other services at federal facilities.
Director - W. Asa Hutchinson, a Senior Partner of AH Law Group of Rogers, AR, Director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the first-ever Under Secretary for Border & Transportation Security at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Congressman from the Third District of Arkansas. After the September 11 attacks, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security. President George W. Bush tapped Hutchinson to lead the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, the largest division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with more than 110,000 employees. Hutchinson was confirmed by unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate
Hutchinson also lobbied for Securitas while working for Venable LLC, a top Washington DC law firm whose work often requires staff to register with the Senate under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Hutchinson and his colleagues represented Securitas's interests in a number of bills related to airport security. The database states that the firm received $200,000 from Securitas for these services.
Here's the registration filing; for Hutchinson's name and the bills in which he lobbied Congress on behalf of the Swedish company, go to page 3:
Asa Hutchinson: National School Shield Emergency Response Program not just volunteers anymore
In Hutchinson's first prepared statement during the remarks-only press conference on December 21, he spoke about creating a model school security template and training volunteer school security forces at each school in the country. Wayne LaPierre spoke of stationing a police office in each school building.
But in the weeks since, both men have modified their assertions, allowing that armed security officers, not just sworn police officers, might be part of the school shield solution.
Yesterday, Hearst's D.C. Bureau staff writer Dan Freedman reported in NRA school safety leader says effort is for real:
. . . Yet another option, Hutchinson said, is the expansion of school resource officers, on-duty armed police who perform a wide range of tasks in schools that include interacting with students, teachers and administrators and helping implement security measures.
Hutchinson estimated the cost of putting a resource officer in every school at $2 billion to $3 billion a year, which he acknowledged would be hard to fund in lean budgetary times.
In the 2009-2010 school year, there were 23,200 armed security personnel in schools nationwide, 28 percent of all schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. . . .
About those armed security personnel: they don't have to be police officers. On Friday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published About the children: Kids' safety at school paramount, commentary by Hutchinson.
Hutchinson writes in part:
. . .I have recently been asked to lead a comprehensive national effort to improve the safety of our schools. A part of this solution will be the increased presence of trained, armed and professional security officers in the schools. Currently, about one third of our nation's schools have armed security.
. . .We have seen several schools take steps to enhance safety by immediately increasing the use of trained officers on their property. But not every school can afford the costs, and not all armed officers are equally trained.
That is why it is so critical to create an effective federal, state and local sharing of costs, and, most importantly, to assure a high standard of training and certification. The training of armed personnel to protect our children should not be less than those who are trained to protect our airlines or even the president.
Finally, the safety of our children is more than just armed officers. It is about access control, perimeter security, surveillance, architecture, policies and drills. My school-safety task force will look into all of these needs and offer the best practices and model security protocols to our schools.
"Officer" isn't synonymous with "police officer." It can mean "security officer." Indeed, Bluestem's friends who work in security prefer the term; it's certainly better than the snide label,"rent-a-cop."
If the task force Hutchinson leads recommends armed security officers--and federal and state elected leaders decide to allocate resources to the findings, how big of a slice of the school security officer pie will go to Securitas?
The Administrator and the Lobbyist: Earlier Criticisms of Hutchinson's Ethics
This poor country blogger isn't the first to ask questions about Hutchinson's self-interest in his advocacy for corporations with which he has a working relationship. When he left the Department of Homeland Security to toil as a lobbyist at Venable LLC to work for clients with homeland security issues and contracts, the press raised its eyebrows.
When he unsuccessfully ran for Arkansas governor in 2006, the Democrats raised these criticisms again, expanding them when armed with the candidate's mandatory financial disclosure. Since Hutchinson is chatting to Arkansas newspapers about running for governor in 2014, it's possible that this potential new conflation of public policy with the private profits of a corporation in which Hutchinson has an interest might again raise questions.
In 2005, the New York Times reported in Official Leaving Security Dept. Shifts to Advising Contractors:
Asa Hutchinson, who stepped down this week as a top administrator at the Department of Homeland Security, has joined a law firm based in Washington that represents major domestic security contractors and companies regulated by the department.
Mr. Hutchinson, 54, who as under secretary at the department oversaw transportation and border security, will be barred for at least one year from interacting directly with department officials. But he can advise companies that are pursuing contracts with the agency or are subject to its regulatory review. . . .
Mr. Hutchinson, a former congressman who may run for Arkansas governor in 2006, would not say how much he was being paid or who some of his probable clients would be.
This move played to Hutchinson's disadvantage in the 2006 race. Andrew DeMillo of the Associated Press reported in "Parties find attack lines for governor's race:"
Arkansas Republicans and Democrats have found similar lines of attack in the gubernatorial campaign.
For Democrats, it's focusing on Asa Hutchinson's former job. . .
. . . Democrats last week lobbed questions about Asa Hutchinson's negotiation with a Washington law firm while he was employed at the federal Department of Homeland Security. Hutchinson eventually took a job with the firm, Venable LLPVenable had clients with business before Homeland Security, but Hutchinson said he followed the law and, in writing, formally stepped aside from any business involving the firm.
Criticism over Hutchinson's past aren't new from Democrats, who have tried to peg shortcomings in Homeland Security to Hutchinson's tenure as the department's undersecretary.
But the lobbying questions reveal a new line of criticism from Democrats after the state GOP questioned whether Beebe has used his office to conduct political business. . . .(February 11, 2006, Nexis All-News, accessed 1/6/2013).
Hutchinson's disclosure of his financial interests also drew fire when he amended it to include a $1 million return on a $2,800 investment in Fortress America. Demillo reported in "Beebe: Hutchinson potential $1 million windfall a sweetheart deal":
The chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Beebe on Wednesday questioned Republican rival Asa Hutchinson for turning an investment of $2,800 in a homeland-security related business into a potential $1 million windfall.
Hutchinson, who before announcing his bid for governor was an undersecretary at the federal Department of Homeland Security, was a founder and investor in Fortress America Acquistion Corp.
The company, formed to buy an existing company involved in emergency preparedness or a related field, conducted an initial public offering of its stock, which raised $42 million.
Hutchinson owns 200,000 shares in the company. Its shares were offered at $6 and closed Tuesday at $5.40. The company founders, a group of ex-congressmen and other insiders, initially put up $25,000. That investment is now worth $9.5 million; Hutchinson's share is worth $1.08 million. . . .
. . .The holding was not listed on Hutchinson's May 4 financial disclosure form for his race for governor. The candidate amended the form on May 5 to include Fortress America.
Jason Willett, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, questioned why Hutchinson didn't originally report the investment on his form.
"I think this definitely raises some serious questions about how Mr. Hutchinson could forget to report a million dollar investment," Willett said. "Most Arkansans would never forget about turning $2,800 into a million dollars over twelve months."
Hutchinson spokesman David Kinkade said Hutchinson made a "simple error" by omitting the investment, but realized it and quickly amended his report. . . .(June 8, 2006, Nexis All-News, accessed 1/6/2013).
Totally an oversight.
In his second pass at running for Arkansas governor, DeMillo reports in Asa Hutchinson Hasn't Changed, but Arkansas Has (AP Analysis) that the NRA work is perceived as an asset:
His work on a National Rifle Association initiative to study school safety and push for armed guards in schools allows him to tout his pro-gun credentials in a state where Democrats and Republicans alike boast of their gun collections in political ads.
If Hutchinson's connections with the world's largest private security firm comes to be seen as a conflict of interest in that initiative, will Arkansas voters recall the old revolving door charges and see Hutchinson as less of a publicservant and more of a crony capitalist?
Photo: From Securitas's 2011 report, a school security officer by a classic yellow school bus.
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