Report Cites Conflicts Between Sheriffs and Campaign Donors

Massachusetts sheriffs have received more than $ 2.6 million in campaign donations from entities that could benefit from doing business with their offices, according to a new report that recommends changes to limit potential ethical conflicts.

The report, from Common Cause and Communities for Sheriff Accountability, examines campaign contributions to 48 sheriffs in office in 11 states and documents more than $ 6 million in donations that its authors say create potential conflicts of interest, including over $ 1.6 million from construction and real estate companies. companies, $ 326,878 from representatives of legal firms and related services, $ 286,826 from transportation companies, $ 216,847 from telecommunications and technology companies, over $ 290,000 from companies and health professionals and $ 70,679 from energy companies.

“Sheriffs are politicians who make important decisions about the health and safety of millions of Americans – and they should not be offered for sale to the highest bidder,” the report said.

The report tracks cases of apparent conflicts of interest, including overlaps between campaign contributors and entities with which a sheriff’s office or prison contracts, rather than those that specifically violate ethics or fundraising rules. campaign of a state.

In a Massachusetts overlap, the report says correctional health care provider CPS Health Care 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 has communications contracts with Norfolk and Essex Prisons. counties, and two Securus representatives “are responsible for more than $ 7,000 in contributions to the sheriffs of the counties of Essex, Hampden, Middlesex and Norfolk,” the report said.

Hampden Sheriff Nick Cocchi said in a statement his office complied with all state laws regarding awarding contracts and “never engaged in ‘pay to play’ tactics.” .

“What the public needs to understand is that the sheriff’s office cannot and does not take individual campaign contributions into account when awarding contracts and offers. State law determines who the bids are awarded to and the Commonwealth must approve all vendors, ”Cocchi said.

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

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