Reports asserts conflicts between sheriffs, campaign donors

Boston Statehouse

FILE: Generic jail/prison corridor (Photo credit: Getty)

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Massachusetts sheriffs received more than $2.6 million in campaign donations from entities that could stand to benefit from doing business with their offices, according to a new report that recommends changes to curb potential ethical conflicts.

The report, from Common Cause and Communities for Sheriff Accountability, examines campaign contributions to 48 incumbent sheriffs across 11 states and documents more than $6 million in donations its authors say create potential conflicts of interest, including:

  • More than $1.6 million from construction companies and real estate businesses
  • $326,878 from representatives of legal firms and related services
  • $286,826 from transportation companies
  • $216,847 from telecommunications and tech companies
  • More than $290,000 from medical businesses and professionals
  • $70,679 from energy industry businesses.

“Sheriffs are politicians who make major decisions about health and safety for millions of Americans — and they shouldn’t be up for sale to the highest bidder,” the report says.

The report tracks instances of apparent conflicts of interest, including overlaps between campaign contributors and entities with which a sheriff’s office or jail contracts, rather than those that specifically violate a state’s ethics or campaign finance rules. In one Massachusetts overlap, the report said correctional health care provider CPS Health Care has spent more than $20,365 on sheriffs’ campaigns here, and sheriffs paid $9.82 million in contracts to CPS from 2012 to 2021.

Securus Technologies holds jail communication contracts in Norfolk and Essex counties, and two Securus representatives “are responsible for more than $7,000 in contributions to the sheriffs in Essex, Hampden, Middlesex, and Norfolk counties,” the report said.

The report authors recommend policies prohibiting donations to sheriff campaigns from entities doing or seeking business with sheriffs’ offices, strengthening transparency and disclosure laws, and changing how campaigns are funded to give small donors a more prominent role.

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