Koch Candidates Unmask the Billionaires’ Charade for Criminal Justice Reform

June 2, 2015

Another Koch lackey is exposing the thinly veiled truth about the Koch outcry for criminal justice reform: The campaign is a PR stunt to rehabilitate the Koch brand. Despite their promises to help reform the criminal justice system, the hypocritical billionaire brothers continue to back candidates who spin the cycle of mass incarceration. Recently, Maryland Governor — and Koch pawn — Larry Hogan vetoed six pieces of major criminal justice reform legislation, according to the InterceptHogan’s vetoes of a so-called Koch priority reaffirms that criminal justice reform is merely a sham campaign by the Koch brothers.  

The Kochs have been candid about creating a “do-gooder” image that helps their bottom line. In a March profile, Koch Industries’ marketing executive, Steve Lombardo, admitted the initiative was “a key part of the strategy to deflate the negative narrative around the Kochs.”  Now that the Kochs are being branded as out-of-touch oil billionaires to buy elections for conservative candidates, they need a distraction from their real Tea Party intentions.

The Koch brothers’ “awakening” didn’t arise over the problems they saw with the criminal justice system, but after Koch Industries came under scrutiny from law enforcement for potential violations of the Clean Air Act and other crimes. Koch Industries spent six years fighting the charges and eventually settled with the government for $10 million. Their initial interest in criminal justice was a business decision — not a moral one.

Hogan is the latest example of a Koch-backed official who has curbed efforts for criminal justice reform. If the Kochs were actually committed to passing criminal justice reform, Koch-backed candidates would be doing more to institute change as they have on so many other Koch prioritiesThe proposed bills would have limited excessive asset seizure by police and restored voting rights for non-violent offenders. The dead legislation comprised the core tenets of the Koch initiative outlined in their manifesto for reform, “The Overcriminalization of America.”

Charles Koch recently sent a letter to Obama administration officials asking to speed up the clemency program for non-violent offenders. Despite their pleas for reform, the Kochs continue to support Governors Scott Walker, Mike Pence, Bobby Jindal, and Doug Ducey, who all continue to spend more money to put offenders away for extended sentences. Governor Walker’s record in particular stands in stark contrast to the Kochs’ empty calls for reform. As of 2013, the Associated Press found that Gov. Walker has refused to consider any of the at least 1,400 pardon applications since he had taken office. He was also the leading backer of Wisconsin’s truth in sentencing legislation, which ended parole opportunities and increased prison time for offenders.

This criminal justice initiative is an attempt to mask the recent exposure of the Kochs’ dirty business practices and egregious political spending. Last week, the Koch brothers attacked American Bridge by name in a Wall Street Journal for op-ed highlighting their extortion-as-education schemes around the country. American Bridge’s efforts to reveal Koch tactics are working and that’s why the billionaire brothers are in such desperate need of damage control.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation