Poor Michael Bloomberg. He’s having a lot of difficulties buying his way into the Democratic nomination for president. His poll numbers haven’t skyrocketed at a pace relative to the massive amounts of money he’s spent – more than any other candidate – and the media hasn’t flocked to him as many (including me) expected. But the 8th richest man in America was finally able to break into the Christmas news cycle when it was revealed incarcerated contractors were making calls on his campaign’s behalf.
Bloomberg released a brief statement about the news, claiming he was unaware of his campaign contractor’s actions and had cut ties with them upon hearing the news from The Intercept.
This is the oddest thing I've ever heard of in a presidential race.
I'm not sure whether to blame the Bloomberg campaign, feel sorry for them, or just continue ignoring them as I've been doing the last month.
Leaning towards option 3. https://t.co/BEyU6Ed9uh
— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) December 24, 2019
As the story goes, one of his contractors utilized the services of call centers set up in Oklahoma women’s prisons. The callers did say the message was paid for by the Bloomberg campaign but didn’t mention they were calling from prison. The calls were made to residence in California, which is among the states Bloomberg needs to win when he tries to make his splash on the first Super Tuesday of the primary cycle. He is forfeiting the first four primary and caucus states in February and putting all of his eggs into the 14-state March 3rd basket.
Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News, responded to the news by saying, “The use of prison labor is the continued exploitation of people who are locked up, who really have virtually no other opportunities to have employment or make money other than the opportunities given to them by prison officials.”
“John Scallan, a ProCom co-founder, said his company pays the Oklahoma minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, which then pays the incarcerated people working in the call centers,” The Intercept continued. “The Department of Corrections website lists the maximum monthly wage for the incarcerated at $20 dollars a month, but another policy document says there is a maximum pay of $27.09 per month.”
According to Forbes, Bloomberg is worth more than $55 billion and has “donated $8 billion to gun control, climate change and other causes.”
Therein lies the rub. Yes, technically the workers are getting paid, which one would think would be a positive message for a Democratic campaign. The party’s push for criminal justice reform and their penchant for giving opportunities to convicted felons makes the story a potential boost to his campaign if he had chosen to take that route. He didn’t choosing to disavow the action instead. But it also brings up another question only loosely related to the campaign. If the contractor was paying minimum wage but the actual workers were only receiving $20-$27 per month, where do the other funds go? We can assume the Department of Corrections keeps all or most of it. Is there a Shawshank Redemption situation in place in Oklahoma where some evil warden is pocketing profits off of his inmates’ labor?
Probably not. But someone should ask.
The Democratic nomination race has been an embarrassment across the board from the start. Some though Michael Bloomberg could bring some much-needed sanity to the race. Instead, he’s just bringing more shame upon his broken party.
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