Oops: Bloomberg Accidentally Used Prisoners for Campaign Calls

Candidate hastily cuts ties with contractor who employed prisoners in Okla.
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 25, 2019 6:43 AM CST
Oops: Bloomberg Accidentally Used Prisoners for Campaign Calls
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg walks into the crowd of supporters and volunteers to speak to them and take photos after speaking in Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019.   (Tyger Williams/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Michael Bloomberg hastily cut ties with a contractor that used prisoners to make calls for his presidential campaign, he said in a statement Tuesday. The former New York mayor said that his campaign was unaware of the arrangement until a reporter sought comment, reports the AP. Earlier Tuesday, the Intercept reported that Bloomberg's campaign contracted a New Jersey-based call center company that, in at least one instance, used Oklahoma inmates to make calls on behalf of the billionaire's campaign. "We only learned about this when the reporter called us, but as soon as we discovered which vendor's subcontractor had done this, we immediately ended our relationship with the company and the people who hired them," Bloomberg said in the statement. “We do not support this practice and we are making sure our vendors more properly vet their subcontractors moving forward."

What's more, it's not clear how much the inmates at the minimum security women's prison were even being paid. The Intercept notes that the call center company, ProCom, pays the state's minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, which then pays the inmates; its website lists their monthly maximum income variously as $20 or $27.09. Bloomberg has come under fire from criminal justice reform advocates for his support for controversial tough-on-crime policies while mayor of New York. He launched his presidential campaign with an apology for his embrace of stop-and-frisk policing tactics, which give police wide latitude to detain individuals suspected of committing a crime and have been found to be used disproportionately against minorities.

(More Michael Bloomberg 2020 stories.)

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