BURLEY, Idaho – Leaders in two Southern Idaho counties are working with a lobbying firm founded by former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig to help lure a proposed federal prison to the region.
Commissioners from Cassia and Minidoka counties voted Monday to hire New West Strategies, a consulting firm co-founded by Craig, an Idaho Republican who served three terms in the U.S. Senate. Craig stepped down from the Senate in 2008, a little more than a year after being cited in a sting operation targeting men cruising for sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The counties hired the firm to help in the early phases of competition for a proposed $300 million medium-security federal prison near Malta. Officials envision building the lockup near the U.S. Geothermal Services plant to take advantage of clean, cheap geothermal energy.
Commissioners said the prison could create an estimated 350 jobs and help diversify a regional economy dominated by agriculture. Even though it could be 18 months before a location is picked and at least four years to build, commissioners are eager to get started.
The Times-News of Twin Falls reports the contract calls for paying New West a monthly fee of $5,000 and a monthly travel budget of $500.
Neither Craig nor any of his former senior Senate staffers can lobby any member of Congress or congressional staff member until January 2011, according to federal law. But that doesn’t preclude other employees of Craig’s firm, according to Steve Carpinelli, spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C.