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California Guard Union Doles Out Millions to Politicians

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) is the union which represents California's 28,000 prison guards. The union is also one of the most powerful political players in state politics. The union supports mandatory sentencing, including "three strikes" laws; increased prison building and harsher prison conditions.

The key to the unions political power is its ability to give money to politicians. In 1998 the CCPOA made $4. 5 million in political donations. The union operates four active campaign committees. The CCPOA Political Action Committee gave $2.9 million to state politicians in 1998. The CCPOA Issues Committee spent $733,000. The CCPOA Local Political Action Committee donated $150,00 to local candidates running for sheriff, district attorney and supervisor across California. The CCPOA Independent Expenditure Committee spent 41 million on television commercials for current California governor Gray Davis while he was running for that office.

The single biggest beneficiary of the union's political donations in 1998 was governor Gray Davis. The CCPOA gave Davis more than $2 million in financial support through advertising, phone banks and polling done on his behalf in the 1998 governor's campaign. The union also kicked in $100,000 for Davis's inauguration.

The CCPOA financial clout makes it one of, if not the, most powerful prison policy makers in California. California prison guards are also the highest paid in the nation. As previously reported in PUNT, the union has effectively obstructed investigations into misconduct by California prison guards (including charges of rape and murder), helped defeat district attorneys who charged guards with crimes committed while working in California prisons, etc. None of this seems to bother the bipartisan recipients of the CCPOX s financial largesse. State senator Jim Brulte (R Rancho Cucamonga) said "My sense is most of us understand that within any group tyre are a few bad actors. I'm not aware of anyone who believes an entire organization ought to be held accountable for what a very small number of their members did." John Gotti couldn't have said it better.

Prisoner rights advocates seeking to impact California's criminal justice policies will have to at least match the CCPOA war chest before they can hope to neutralize its political clout. The CCPOA's impact on California politics is ample illustration that America has the best political system money can buy. It also indicates that any change in California's politics of mass imprisonment is unlikely in the near future.
Source: Sacramento Bee

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