Donna Arduin, right, director of the Office of Budget and Management, speaks to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Donna Arduin, right, director of the Office of Budget and Management, speaks to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Should Alaska privatize prisons? Dems upset over budget director’s ties to industry

Legislators point out Donna Arduin’s involvement with private prisons company

A group of Democrat senators and representatives are asking Gov. Michael Dunleavy for clarification on Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin’s business interests.

Dunleavy hired Arduin to help him produce a budget that he has promised would align expenditures and revenue. He has proposed cutting $1.6 billion from the operating budget. Arduin’s duties in helping the governor shape the budget are spelled out in Alaska statutes.

In a letter obtained by the Empire, the group of lawmakers request clarity from the governor on Arduin’s business interests, based on her connections to GEO Group, which is a private prison corporation.

“News reports indicate that Ms. Arduin developed budget proposals for other states, including to privatize prisons, that directly benefited companies (including the GEO Group and related firms) for which she worked as a lobbyist and as a corporate board member,” the memo reads. “Ms. Arduin’s POFD does not provide sufficient detail to ascertain whether her consulting firm Arduin Laffer Moore currently holds or recently held contracts with private prisons or private mental health hospital firms.”

Lawmakers who have signed the memo include: Sens. Tom Begich, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Scott Kawasaki, Jesse Kiehl, Donny Olson, Bill Wielechowski, as well as Reps. Ivy Sponholz and Zack Fields.

Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, said the power Arduin has on budget translates to policy decision and wonders if a position of such power should have to go through the confirmation process.

“We all know where she came from and her history,” Kawasaki said in his office on Thursday. “What I’ve seen during the last three weeks is she seems to be taking over a lot of policy decisions. What I’d like to see is if she could be confirmed by the legislators. Shouldn’t the legislators have some sort of say? Some states have a treasurer that is either elected or appointed (and subsequently confirmed) and maybe that’s the model we want to go to with.”

The memo continues: “According to the Department of Corrections — whose budget is directly controlled by Ms. Arduin — the state is examining prison privatization. Although evidence from other states indicate prison privatization does not reduce costs, it does transfer wealth to firms such as those that retained Ms. Arduin to advocate for prison privatization in other states such as Florida and California.”

That DOC statement appeared in a Jan. 21 Alaska Public Media article, and was attributed to a department spokesperson, who said in December that the department was considering making changes including privatizing prisons.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in California Arduin helped then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration make budget cuts when it was facing a multi-billion budget shortfall. After 11 months with the Schwarzenegger administration, she left her position. Arduin took a position on the board of trustees of Correctional Properties, a spinoff of GEO Group, according to a 2005 Times report.

Arduin’s career move came under scrutiny because the Schwarzenegger administration reopened a McFarland, California prison, which was owned by Correctional Properties. The operations contract at the McFarland jail was given to GEO Group, according to the Times article.

In 2005, Arduin deflected criticism. She told the Los Angeles Times in 2005, “Every person that knows anything about law, ethics or otherwise, would tell you the answer is no” when she was asked about a conflict of interest.”

GEO Group has a registered lobbyist in Juneau this year.




• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or kbaird@juneauempire.com.


Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin presents the governor’s supplemental budget to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin presents the governor’s supplemental budget to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

This photo shows the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine sits on a table at a pop up vaccinations site the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, in the Staten Island borough of New York. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo / Mary Altaffer)
CDC freeze on Johnson and Johnson vaccine sets clinics scrambling

The odds of being affected are vanishingly rare, but CDC says better safe than sorry.

This photo shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident. On Wednesday, March 24, 2021, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state of Ohio that tried to get the U.S. Census Bureau to provide data used for drawing congressional and legislative districts ahead of its planned release. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)
Alaska joins 15 other states in backing Alabama’s challenge to Census privacy tool

The case could go directly to the Supreme Court if appealed.

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Tuesday, April 13, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

After over 30 years at 3100 Channel Drive, the Juneau Empire offices are on the move. (Ben Hohenstatt /Juneau Empire File)
The Juneau Empire is on the move

Advertising and editorial staff are moving to Jordan Creek Center.

This photo shows the National Archives in the Sand Point neighborhood of Seattle that has about a million boxes of generally unique, original source documents and public records. In an announcement made Thursday, April 8, 2021, the Biden administration has halted the sale of the federal archives building in Seattle, following months of opposition from people across the Pacific Northwest and a lawsuit by the Washington Attorney General's Office. Among the records at the center are tribal, military, land, court, tax and census documents. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Biden halts sale of National Archives center in Seattle

Tribes and members of Congress pushed for the halt.

This photo shows Unangax̂ Gravesite at Funter Bay, the site where Aleut villagers forcibly relocated to the area during World War II are buried. A bill recently passed by the Alaska House of Representatives would make the area part of a neighboring state park. (Courtesy photo / Niko Sanguinetti, Juneau-Douglas City Museum) 
DO NOT REUSE THIS PHOTO WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM JUNEAU DOUGLAS CITY MUSEUM. -BEN HOHENSTATT
Bill to preserve Unangax̂ Gravesite passes House

Bill now heads to the state Senate.

The state announced this week that studded tires will be allowed for longer than usual. In Southeast Alaska, studded tires will be allowed until May 1 instead of April 15. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
State extends studded tire deadline

Prolonged wintry weather triggers the change.

COVID at a glance for Monday, April 12

The most recent state and local numbers.

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, April 11, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read