Prime Policy Group, the lobbying wing of WPP’s BCW unit, has been hired by nonprofit the Free at Last Coalition to advocate constitutional and civil rights issues on Capitol Hill.
The Lutz, Florida-based organization was formed in response to the fact that slavery is still technically legal in the United States, due to a little-known loophole that exists in the 13th Amendment, the landmark 1865 law that officially ended the institution of slavery in the U.S.
Section One of the 13th Amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
This Amendment abolished most—but not all—slavery, due to the fact that the clause “except as a crime whereof the party shall have been convicted” still provides an avenue for slavery to be legal in cases when the practice is enforced as punishment to those convicted of a crime.
Scholars and activist groups have cited that "Punishment Clause" as making permissible the practice of unpaid or underpaid labor in the U.S. prison system. Between 2000 to 2016, the number of people housed in U.S. private prisons increased five times faster than the total prison population, according to a 2018 report from the Sentencing Project. On January 25th, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that prohibits the Justice Department from signing contracts with private prisons.
Prime Policy Group has been hired to promote “the adoption of a constitutional amendment to eliminate the slavery exception from the 13th Amendment,” according to lobbying registration documents filed with Congress in January.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) in December similarly introduced the “Abolition Amendment,” which would strike the "Punishment Clause" from the 13th Amendment.
The Free at Last Coalition account will be led by PPG chairman Charles Black, who was former aide to Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns and also served as an adviser to the election campaigns of George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Governors Mitt Romney and John Kasich. Black will be joined by PPG managing director Mark Disler, who was formerly a staffer to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT).