Politicians' campaigns profit as private prisons boom

Monday, December 20th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- When it comes to putting together deals to build private prisons, Oklahoma City developer Pat McCoy is the ultimate deal-maker. McCoy testified during a court hearing earlier this year that he's received $4 million from prison deals with Corrections Corporation of America.

The developer has also put together lucrative projects for Dominion Correctional Properties. Construction companies, underwriters and architects have prospered during the private prison boom, and most of all if they work with McCoy.

Those in the prison building business aren't the only ones who profited. State records show political leaders, including Gov. Frank Keating, have gotten campaign donations from the private prison industry of more than $29,000. Keating received more than $20,000 of that total during his two campaigns.

Six of the state's seven private prisons built by private builders and financiers since 1991 were built without state oversight or competitive bidding. Keating has been a friend to private prisons. Legislation that would have allowed the state to buy Cushing's private prison was vetoed by the governor. CCA later bought the prison.

PEC Enterprises Inc. is McCoy's firm, and part of a group of companies that built four of the state's seven private prisons. The prisons which are all CCA facilities are in Holdenville, Cushing, Sayre and Watonga. McCoy describes his firm as a financial strategy firm. Professional fees accounted for about 10 per cent of the cost of building the Holdenville prison. Other members of the group are Oklahoma City bond attorney J. Scott Brown and his former firm, Fagin, Brown, Bush, Tinney & Kiser; the Oklahoma City-based architectural firm of Rees and Associates; former Tennessee commissioner of corrections Steve Norris of Norris and Associates; and Little Rock, Ark.-based underwriter Stephens Inc.

Dominion Correctional Properties and Canam Construction LLC built private prisons in Hinton and McLoud. Canam Construction is part of a related group of companies based in Edmond; and The Benhan Group. Dominion approached McCoy to assist in the state's first private prison in 1989. The Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton was an 826-bed, medium-security facility.

McCoy said he selected Flintco to work on several of his projects, because it was one of the few construction firms with the bonding capacity to do the job. Other McCoy choices included Brown as attorney for the project, Rees and Associates as architects, and Norris and Associates for prison monitor.