Koch-Linked Coalition Openly Advocates Mens Rea Changes That Help Kochs

September 9, 2016

This week, a coalition of 8 groups — 6, with Koch ties: Americans for Tax Reform, Faith & Freedom Coalition, FreedomWorks, Generation Opportunity, Justice Fellowship, and R Street Institute — sent a joint letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republican leadership, voicing support for the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713), the Recidivism Risk Reduction Act (H.R. 759), and the Criminal Code Improvement Act (H.R. 4002), a trio of criminal justice bills (each of which will be scored by FreedomWorks and the Faith and Freedom Coalition) that — surprise! — stand to benefit Charles and David Koch personally.

Beyond the PR sham component of their criminal justice reform campaign, the Koch brothers have a great deal else to gain in terms of legal changes that would bend the rules in their favor. Take mens rea “reform,” for example. The Kochs want mens rea, an intent requirement, to be applied to white collar crime prosecutions, because such a shift would better shield their businesses and executives from, well, prosecution. When you own and run a company that’s racked up multiple felony charges for unrepentant polluting, you tend to be… cautious — at least where your personal liability is concerned.

That’s where the letter the Koch-coalition letter comes back in. It represents one of the first times that the Kochs have openly named mens rea “reform” as a priority. Previously, they’ve actually tried to claim the opposite. But that is not the case here, as the letter actually devotes several paragraphs to an extended discourse on the perils of mens rea requirements, ultimately arriving at the following (absurd) conclusion:

Today, it is simply impossible for Americans to have had fair notice or to know what laws they may unwittingly break in any given day.

The Kochs are seemingly coming clean after years of insisting that their criminal justice reform efforts are grounded in altruism. As ever, for Charles and David Koch, it’s all about self-enrichment and self-preservation.


Koch Coalition Pushes Criminal Justice Reform Bills

The Coalition Supported Three Criminal Justice Bills Backed By Rep. Bob Goodlatte

A Coalition Of Organizations Advocated For The Passage Of The Sentencing Reform Act, The Recidivism Risk Reduction Act, And The Criminal Code Improvement Act.According to a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers signed by representatives from  FreedomWorks, Faith & Freedom Coalition, Americans for Tax Reform, R Street Institute, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Generation Opportunity, Justice Fellowship, and RedState, “The undersigned organizations and individuals are writing to voice our support for the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713), the Recidivism Risk Reduction Act (H.R. 759) and the Criminal Code Improvement Act (H.R. 4002). These bills are part of a larger effort spearheaded by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and the House Judiciary Committee to enact long overdue reforms in the federal criminal justice system.” [Scribd, 9/8/16]

Six Coalition Members Have Ties To The Koch Network

Americans For Tax Reform

Americans For Tax Reform Received $4,189,000 From The Center To Protect Patient Rights In 2010. According to the 2010 Center To Protect Patient Rights, Inc. IRS Form 990, the organization granted $4,189,000.00 to Americans for Tax Reform during the 2010 fiscal year. [2010 Center To Protect Patient Rights, Inc. IRS Form 990, 11/12/11]

The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation Donated $50,000 To Americans For Tax Reform In 20120. According to the 2012 Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation IRS Form 990, the organization granted $50,000 to Americans for Tax Reform during 2012. [2012 Claude R Lambe Charitable Foundation IRS Form 990, 11/15/13]

Faith & Freedom Coalition

Faith & Freedom Coalition Was Publicly Announced At A Rally Co-Sponsored By Americans For Prosperity. According to Alternet, “Reed’s public unveiling of his Faith and Freedom Coalition took place at an Atlanta rally, co-sponsored by AFP, staged in opposition to healthcare reform during the 2009 summer of town-hall rage.” [Alternet, 7/9/12]

Faith & Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed Worked With AFP President At Century Strategies. According to Alternet, “But Reed had more than a little help in doing his job “better,” as he said. First, he was able to deploy sophisticated mobile marketing technology that the other side apparently didn’t have. Second, he was able to sync his efforts to those of an old friend, Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity (the astroturf group founded by the Koch brothers) and Reed’s former business partner at Century Strategies.” [Alternet, 7/9/12]

Freedom Works

FreedomWorks Was Founded In 1984 As Citizens For A Sound Economy. According to the FreedomWorks website, “FreedomWorks was originally founded as Citizens for a Sound Economy in 1984.” [FreedomWorks.org/about/about-freedomworks, accessed 3/10/16]

  • Citizens For A Sound Economy Was Co-Founded By David Koch.According to The New Yorker, “‘Ideas don’t happen on their own,’ Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party advocacy group, told me. ‘Throughout history, ideas need patrons.’ The Koch brothers, after helping to create Cato and Mercatus, concluded that think tanks alone were not enough to effect change. They needed a mechanism to deliver those ideas to the street, and to attract the public’s support. In 1984, David Koch and Richard Fink created yet another organization, and Kibbe joined them. The group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, seemed like a grassroots movement, but according to the Center for Public Integrity it was sponsored principally by the Kochs, who provided $7.9 million between 1986 and 1993.” [The New Yorker,8/30/10]

Generation Opportunity

Center For Responsive Politics: For The Tax Years Ending In 2011, 2012, And 2013, Generation Opportunity “Raised Almost 86 Percent Of Its Funds From Just Two Koch-Linked Nonprofits.” According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “In the three years for which tax information is available, Generation Opportunity has raised almost 86 percent of its funds from just two Koch-linked nonprofits. Generation Opportunity — via its wholly owned limited liability company, TRGN LLC — received $5.04 million from Freedom Partners. Both groups are linked to Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who help bankroll a network of politically active organizations that don’t reveal their donors.” [OpenSecrets.org,5/13/14]

Justice Fellowship

Justice Fellowship Was Described As “The Criminal Justice And Public Policy Reform Arm Of Prison Fellowship.” According to Prison Fellowship, “Prison Fellowship Ministries Board of Directors has named Craig DeRoche president of Justice Fellowship, the criminal justice and public policy reform arm of Prison Fellowship.” [Prison Fellowship, 3/7/13]

Prison Fellowship Was A Member Of ALEC’s Justice Performance Project. According to the American Legislative Council’s (ALEC) website, “For years, the ALEC Justice Performance Project has brought together a diverse coalition of allies that offer research and experience to achieve the shared goal of better sentencing laws. Notable members include Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), Justice Fellowship, Right on Crime, Institute for Justice, Prison Fellowship, and Stop Child Predators, of which Stacie Rumenap is the ALEC Justice Performance Project private sector chair. ALEC also partners with organizations that have proven track records of leading criminal justice reforms.  In 2012, ALEC and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hosted a summit focused on inspiring state criminal justice reform. Working with the ACLU, ALEC members successfully implemented mandatory minimum sentencing reforms around the country.” [ALEC, Accessed 8/4/16]

The Charles Koch Institute Co-Hosted A Panel Discussion With Prison Fellowship, In Virginia On February 24, 2016 On The Next Steps For Criminal Justice Reform; The Event Was Entitled “Towards A More Just Commonwealth.” According to the Charles Koch Institute website, “As Virginians consider next steps for criminal justice reform, Prison Fellowship and the Charles Koch Institute will host a panel of experts to discuss current issues and what productive reform efforts may be on the horizon for Virginia. Virginia currently has the lowest felony larceny threshold in the country, at $200. Yet, recent polling conducted by Prison Fellowship and the Charles Koch Institute has found that 65% of Virginians believe larceny of $200 worth of goods from a retail store should be a misdemeanor offense, while only 22% believe it should be a felony. The collateral consequences of incarceration, especially for a felony, often hamper an individual’s ability to rejoin society as a productive citizen. Furthermore, many juveniles start on a path of prolonged incarceration, despite data demonstrating that alternative methods of punishment have proved more effective. Virginians are also broadly supportive of reinstating parole. Indeed, self-described conservative or very conservative Virginians support the idea by a two-to-one margin. Please join our panel of experts for a discussion of these and other pressing criminal justice issues.” [Charles Koch Institute, 2/18/16]

R Street Institute

R Street Institute Is A Member Of The State Policy Network. [State Policy Network, accessed 9/9/16]

In February of 2016, Former Vice President Of Journalism At The Franklin Center, And Founder Of Cal Watchdog Steven Greenhut Was Hired As The Western Region Director For The R Street Institute. According to a press release from the R Street Institute, “The R Street Institute is pleased to welcome Steven Greenhut as its new western region director, based in Sacramento. In his new role, Greenhut will be responsible for running R Street’s West Coast office, continuing R Street’s work on legislation and issues affecting the western states and furthering relations with business groups. Greenhut was formerly the California columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He previously was the vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he managed a team of 35 investigative reporters and editors who covered state capitols across the country. He played a critical role in launching ‘Fixing California,’ a joint project between the Union-Tribune and the Franklin Center. Before the Franklin Center, Greenhut founded Cal Watchdog in 2009, which provided Sacramento-based investigative news coverage.” [R Street Institute Press Release, 2/29/16]

The Koch Network Praised The Recidivism Risk Reduction Act, And Was Invested In Prison Alternatives And Reentry Services

Koch Industires General Counsel Mark Holden Commended Rep. Goodlatte For The Passage Of The Recidivism Reduction Act

Mark Holden: Koch Industries Commended Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Ranking Rep. John Conyers, And The House Judiciary Committee For Passage Of The Recidivism Risk Reduction Act. According to a press release by Mark Holden for Koch News, “Koch commends Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, and the House Judiciary Committee for their leadership in passing H.R. 759, the ‘Recidivism Risk Reduction Act.’ This bipartisan bill, based on legislation originally sponsored by Representatives Chaffetz, Gowdy, Richmond, and Jeffries, is designed to make our communities safer. It uses risk assessment tools to reduce recidivism, lower the crime rate, and reduce the amount of money spent on the federal prison system.” [Mark Holden – Koch News, 2/11/16]

The Koch Network Has Interests In Prison Alternatives And Reentry Services

PR Watch Found Koch Backed Reform Efforts Coincided With The Expansion Of Private Reentry Contractors, With Private Prisons Like Geo Group And Corrections Corporation Of America (CCA) “Heavily” Entering Into Contracts For Prison Alternatives And Reentry Services. According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, “It should come as no surprise that these reform efforts coincide with an expansion of private reentry contractors. Private prisons like Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), as part of their aggressive profit-driven strategy, are branching-out heavily into contracts for prison alternatives and reentry services, as the public clamors for alternatives to the mass incarceration that has made the U.S. the world’s ‘leader’ in imprisoning its citizens. Public interest groups like Grassroots Leadership define this privatization as the ‘Treatment Industrial Complex’: the movement of the for-profit prison industry into correctional medical care, mental health treatment, and ‘community corrections.’ Community Corrections include correction programs outside of jail or prison walls: probation and parole services including halfway houses; day reporting centers; drug and alcohol treatment programs; home confinement; electronic monitoring; and an array of supportive services such as educational classes and job training.” [Center for Media and Democracy, 6/16/16]

PR Watch Found That CCA Listed “Reentry Programs And Reducing Recidivism” With Being In Line With Their Business Model After They Acquired Correctional Alternatives Inc. For $36 Million; Geo Group Merged With Cornell Companies In 2010, Which Was A “Private Provider Of Corrections, Treatment And Educational Services.” According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, “In 2014, for example, one year after acquiring reentry provider Correctional Alternatives Inc. for $36 million, CCA announced that ‘Reentry programs and reducing recidivism are 100 percent aligned with our business model.’ GEO Group’s reentry arm, GEO Care (now Correct Care Recovery Solutions) advertises: Save valuable funds with residential programs, a lower cost option to incarceration. Offenders participate in treatment and training while living in the community, and they can be monitored with electronic monitoring, if necessary. In 2010, Geo Group announced a $685 million dollar merger with Cornell Companies, ‘a private provider of corrections, treatment and educational services.’ Its announcement described the combined company was ‘well positioned to capitalize on growing global demand for correctional, detention and behavioral health services.’” [Center for Media and Democracy, 6/16/16]

PR Watch Found Five Of GEO’s Seven “Residential Treatment” Facilities Operated In Florida As Of 2010, And Accounted For 11% Of GEO’s Total Revenue; A “Pattern Of Negligence, Violence, Death, And Sexual Abuse” Was Exposed At GEO Care In Florida By The Tampa Bay Times And Sarasota Herald-Tribune In 2015. According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, “As of 2010, five of GEO’s seven ‘residential treatment’ facilities were operating in Florida, and by 2011, contracts with Florida accounted for 11% of GEO’s total revenue. That same year, a GEO Care mental health facility in Florida was investigated after three patients were killed ‘unnaturally’ within two months. A larger pattern of negligence, violence, death, and sexual abuse was exposed in 2015 by the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Texas GEO Care facilities were also investigated in 2011.” [Center for Media and Democracy, 6/16/16]

Koch-Affiliated ALEC Includes Private Prison Companies Among Its Members

ALEC, The “Public-Private” Legislative Partnership’s “Corporate Roster” Includes The Nation’s Largest And Second Largest Private Jailers, The Corrections Corporation Of America, The GEO Group And The Koch Foundation. According to In These Times, “A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, ALEC bills itself as ‘the nation’s largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators’ and as a public-private legislative partnership. As such, ALEC claims as members more than 2,000 state lawmakers (one-third of the nation’s total legislators) and more than 200 corporations and special-interest groups. The organization’s current corporate roster includes the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, the nation’s largest private jailer), the Geo Group (the nation’s second largest private jailer), Sodexho Marriott (the nation’s leading food services provider to private correctional institutions), the Koch Foundation, Exxon Mobil, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Boeing, Wal-Mart and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, to name just a few.” [In These Times, 6/25/10]

The Kochs Backed The 2015 Version Of The Criminal Code Improvement Act

Senior Counsel At The Brennan Center For Justice At The New York University School Of Law Lauren-Brooke Eisen: The Koch Backed Criminal Code Improvement Act Of 2015 Would “Make It Harder For Prosecutors To Pursue Corporations For Regulatory Violations, Such As Those Involving The Environment.” According to an opinion by Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law for the Huffington Post, “Also in November, and two days after it was first introduced, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passes the anodyne-sounding Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015. The bill would require prosecutors to prove that defendants ‘knew, or had reason to believe, the conduct was unlawful.’ Backed by Koch Industries and other business groups, the measure would make it harder for prosecutors to pursue corporations for regulatory violations, such as those involving the environment or food and drug safety. On the same day the House committee takes its action, a similar bill is introduced in the Senate. It is now pending before the Judiciary Committee.” [Lauren-Brooke Eisen – Huffington Post, 12/28/15]

The Mens Rea Provision In The Criminal Code Improvement Act “Would Make It Harder For Prosecutors To Prove Corporate Wrongdoing.” According to The American Prospect, “House bill introduced last month by Representative James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, includes a provision that critics say would undermine corporate criminal prosecutions by requiring proof that a defendant knew his or her actions were illegal in order to be found guilty. Known as ‘mens rea’ in legal parlance, the provision would make it harder for prosecutors to prove corporate wrongdoing. […] The provision at issue in Sensenbrenner’s bill, known as the Criminal Code Improvement Act, directly addresses these kinds of cases.” [The American Prospect, 12/15/15]

Koch Network On Criminal Justice Bills

Koch Industries General Counsel Mark Holden Said It Was Up To Congress Whether Criminal Justice Reform Passed

Koch Industries General Counsel Mark Holden Called Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse “Misinformed” For Suggesting That The Kochs Only Supported Criminal Justice Reform If It Included Mens Rea. According to RealClearPolitics, “Whitehouse, one of the Democratic senators who co-authored the justice reform legislation, blamed the Koch brothers, who have been outspoken in pushing for reforms to the justice system. Whitehouse suggested they only backed justice reform as a way to push mens rea, and said it has ‘totally tanked’ the bipartisan effort. […] Mark Holden, general counsel at Koch Industries, said Whitehouse was ‘misinformed’ and that his criticism of the Koch brothers was ‘completely inaccurate.’” [RealClearPolitics, 6/30/16]

  • Holden Said That It Was “Up To Congress, Not Up To Koch” Whether The House Criminal Justice Reform Would Pass. According to RealClearPolitics, “Holden said that while they wanted comprehensive criminal justice reform that would include mens rea reforms akin to what’s in the House bill, they support both the House and Senate efforts and wanted some form of the legislation to pass, even if it doesn’t ultimately include mens rea. ‘We want to see something happen and we’ve been saying that for over a year now,’ Holden said. ‘If Congress can’t agree, if the House bill doesn’t survive, that’s up to Congress, not up to Koch. I’m hopeful that the House will pass their legislation, the Senate will pass their legislation and they’ll work it out.’” [RealClearPolitics, 6/30/16]

Charles Koch Institute’s Senior Research Fellow Vikrant Reddy Blamed Obama’s “Misguided” Opposition For Stalling Reform

Charles Koch Institute Senior Research Fellow Vikrant Reddy Tweeted That “Misguided Opposition Of Obama” To Mens Rea Reforms Had Been The “Most Critical Roadblock” To Criminal Justice Reform.  According to a tweet from senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute Vikrant Reddy, “.@SLandP: ‘Misguided opposition of Obama to mens rea reforms has arguably been most critical roadblock to reform.’ …” [Vikrant Reddy – Twitter, 8/15/16]

ALEC’s Criminal Justice Reform Task Force

ALEC Has Had A Task Force On Criminal Justice Reform Since 2008

Since 2008, ALEC Has Had A Task Force On Criminal Justice Reform Called The “Justice Performance Project” Aimed At Bringing Together State Legislators And Stakeholders To “Combat” “Unforgiving And Harsh Criminal Laws.” According to the American Legislative Council’s (ALEC) website, “The American Legislative Exchange Council is proud to be a leader on criminal justice reforms in the states. Since 2008, the ALEC task force on criminal justice reform, called the Justice Performance Project, has brought state legislators and stakeholders together to combat the trend of unforgiving and harsh criminal laws. ALEC members focus on new and innovative state policies that reduce prison populations, prioritize criminal justice spending and help rehabilitate and restore offenders’ lives.” [ALEC, Accessed8/4/16]

Overcriminalization was One Of The Task Force’s “Key” Focus Areas

Overcriminalization Was Listed As One Of The Three “Key Areas” On Which ALEC’s Criminal Justice Reform Task Force Focused On. According to the American Legislative Council’s (ALEC) website, “Members of the Criminal Justice Reform Task Force advance solutions that refocus criminal justice resources on dangerous offenders and put the right programs in place to hold non-violent offenders accountable while providing them with the resources they need to become contributing members of society. The Criminal Justice Reform Task Force focuses on three key areas: Corrections and Reentry, Pretrial Release and Overcriminalization.” [ALEC, Accessed 8/4/16]

ALEC Introduced Model Policy In 2011 Called The “Criminal Intent Protection Act”

The Model Policy Named “Criminal Intent Protection Act” Was Approved By ALEC’s Board Of Directors In 2011

ALEC’s Board Of Directors Approved A Model Policy Known As The “Criminal Intent Protection Act” In June Of 2011. ALEC’s Board of Directors approved a model policy on June 7, 2011, entitled the “Criminal Intent Protection Act” which was aimed, “To protect persons from unjust punishment under vague or ambiguous criminal offenses by codifying default rules of application for criminal intent (mens rea) requirements within criminal law.” [ALEC Model Policy – 6/7/11]

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