Back in August 2015, Bluestem Prairie reported in Swift Co hires Goff Public to work on reopening CCA private prison to solve state's inmate binge that the job-hungry county in west central Minnesota would pony up an initial allocation $10,000 for the lobbying firm's services (pdf of Request for Board Action here):
. . .Additionally staff requests that the board approve an initial allocation of $10,000 from County Board Discretionary Funds for this work. We are also requesting that both the RDA and City of Appleton participate in this work. Finally, we anticipate bring back a budget with a proposed scope as this work moves forward into the 2016 legislative session.
While we waited for Swift County's genial administrator to return our call, we went through the county's 2015 and 2016 minutes and added up the tab for Goff Public's services from the time that the contract was approved and now.
According to our math, Swift County cut checks to Goff Public that totaled $40,043.67. Here's a list of the amounts and links to the minutes that include the more-or-less monthly payments:
- Goff Public $4,725 October 6, 2015 minutes
- Goff Public $5,275 October 20, 2015 minutes
- Goff Public $4,999.99 November 17, 2015 minutes
Paid to Goff Public, 2016 minutes: $25,043.68
- Goff Public $5000 January 19, 2016 minutes
- Goff Public $5000 March 1, 2016 minutes
- Goff Public $5000 March 15, 2016 minutes
- Goff Public $5,000 April 19, 2016 minutes
- Goff Public $5,043.68 May 17, 2016 minutes
The association data for Swift County and the Goff Public lobbyists linked to it are:
Mike Pogge-Weaver, County Administrator
PO Box 288
301 14th St N
Benson, MN 56215
Association Number: 7100
|Elizabeth A Emerson||2088||8/12/2015||Yes|
Hoping to learn if our math (or at least that for 2015 payments) was correct, we went to the 2015 Local Government Lobbying Services report from the State Auditor's office, only to find that Swift County reported to the State Auditor that it paid Goff Public $6,731 last year (page 24 in document's numbered pages).
We were puzzled until our eyes happened upon this on page 15 of the Auditor's report. The City of Appleton reported to the State Auditor that it too had paid $6,731 to Goff Public:
However, no lobbyist had registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (CFB) as having the City of Appleton as a client association. A call to the board determined that since the statues defining reporting to the State Auditor were the same as those used by the CFB, Goff Public lobbyists working on behalf of the City of Appleton may be required to register their client [see update below].
That left us baffled--so we called Appleton, and the city staff member who answered the phone said that indeed the City of Appleton had hired Goff Public to work on getting the CCA prison re-opened (either by leasing or buying it). A follow-up question revealed that Appleton had paid the money to Swift County, which cut the checks to Goff Public.
Our follow-up question to Gary Goldsmith at the CFB about whether this sort of arrangement is kosher has not been returned, as it was made late in the day. We're not sure if the Swift County Rural Development Finance Authority (RDA) has to answer to the State Auditor or the CFB about lobbying, since neither agency notes its presence in lobbying disclosure reports or database, but we've left messages at both the Auditor's office and the CFB.
UPDATE: Gary Goldsmith, Executive Director of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has responded to our email. Everything is in order with the Goff Public filings:
When one entity gives money to another entity for lobbying purposes, the first entity is called an “original source of funds” and must be listed on the relevant report of the second entity. The second entity is the entity that retains the lobbyist.
On her June – December, 2015 report for Swift County, Elizabeth Emerson lists the City of Appleton as an original source of funds. This could explain how Appleton spent money for lobbying but was not a represented entity in the Campaign Finance Board records. This is both legal and fairly common.
Lobbyists report their subjects of lobbying annually, with the report due June 15. On her June 15, 2016 report for Swift County, Ms. Emerson lists “corrections” as one of her subjects of lobbying. So it appears that all parties are in compliance with Chapter 10A. This assumes that the funds transfer occurred between June 1 and December 31, 2015, and that the corrections lobbying occurred between June 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016.
This post will be updated when we know more. [end update]
Swift County had not hired contract lobbyists in living memory, so perhaps the residents shouldn't be unhappy with the spending for little result. Legislation favoring leasing, renting-to-buy, or purchasing the facility didn't make it to the governor's desk.
And then there's the asking price from Correction Corporation of America (CCA), and we reported in Probably didn't read Art of the Deal: Miller a-okay with buying $15 million prison for $99 million.
Photos: The prison in Appleton (above); screengrab of the City of Appleton payment to Goff Public in the 2015 Local Government Lobbying Services report from the State Auditor's office (below).
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