After decades of championing legislation that escalated mass incarceration, former Vice President Joe Biden released a criminal justice plan seeking to reverse key provisions of the 1994 crime bill he helped write. The wide-ranging proposal, which he rolled out roughly a week before the second Democratic presidential primary debate in July, would ban private prisons and reduce incarceration. It also takes a clear stance on those who are cashing in on the prison system: “Stop corporations from profiteering off of incarceration,” his website reads.
But one of Biden’s top fundraisers, Michael F. Neidorff, is the CEO and chair of Centene — a health insurance company that’s a major player in the prison health care market. Prisons and facilities in 16 states have contracted out their health care services to Centurion, which is owned by the $60 billion health insurance company, according to its website. This year, Neidorff has also donated to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the reelection campaigns of Republican Sens. David Perdue, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins, as well as Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, FEC filings show.
Biden’s platform vows to “end the federal government’s use of private prisons” by building off an Obama-era policy that was rescinded by the Trump administration, along with ending the use of private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants. Neither the Biden campaign nor Centene responded to a request for comment.
“Biden will also make eliminating private prisons and all other methods of profiteering off of incarceration — including diversion programs, commercial bail, and electronic monitoring — a requirement for his new state and local prevention grant program,” his policy plan says. “Finally, Biden will support the passage of legislation to crack down on the practice of private companies charging incarcerated individuals and their families outrageously high fees to make calls.”
Since 2012, more than 20 states have shifted over to private, for-profit firms that provide health services in an effort to cut costs — with tragic consequences. Centene, along with its subsidiaries, has faced numerous lawsuits alleging wrongful deaths in prisons, leaving a pregnant inmate to give birth in a cell, and not providing adequate mental health care to suicidal patients, the Arizona Republic noted. While landing lucrative deals in states like Arizona and Florida, for example, Centene also contributes to the campaigns of politicians in the states it operates in.
Neidorff was identified as a bundler for Biden’s presidential bid late Friday night when the Biden campaign released a list of more than 200 individuals and couples who have brought in at least $25,000 in campaign contributions.
Biden’s other bundlers include notable names from Wall Street and Silicon Valley, in addition to a number of current lawmakers like Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg released his own list of bundlers earlier this month, and Sen. Kamala Harris did too before dropping out of the race. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s on track to raise more money than any other candidate in the crowded Democratic primary field, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren don’t hold big-dollar, closed-door fundraisers, so they aren’t releasing similar lists.