Today, Charles Koch co-authored a Politico piece titled “The Overcriminalization of America.” For the Koch brothers, it’s just the latest move in their most recent political pet project, having spent the last few months touting criminal justice reform. With around 2.4 million people incarcerated in the United States, including a disproportionate number of minorities, that seems like a noble mission, right?
It would be, if only their motivations weren’t so dishonorable. The Koch brothers’ “come to Jesus” moment didn’t arise over the problems they saw with the criminal justice system; it came after Koch Industries and employees came under scrutiny from law enforcement in the course of their work. They didn’t like the scrutiny, and they’ve been donating hundreds of thousands of dollars every year since 2004 to reform the criminal justice system. Supporting groups like this was simply a business decision for them, not a moral one.
The Koch brothers claim they aren’t trying to make this a political issue and that this is all about libertarian principles, but we know all too well that the they expect results from their political spending. They spent big in at least 10 different Senate races in 2014, dropping $150 million on the elections. And now they can count senators from Kentucky, Iowa, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Colorado as their new (bought and paid for) friends. So what do the Koch brothers expect from their newly minted senators? As Bloomberg reported, “[The Kochs] want their senators to be soldiers.”
Before the 2014 elections, they backed then-North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and he delivered for the Kochs by cutting taxes for the wealthy. They also backed Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and he delivered by attacking collective bargaining rights to the point where public workers saw pay cuts and lost their ability to negotiation over health coverage, safety, or sick leave. Long story short: they use their money – and the web of conservative organizations they have either set up or funded, a.k.a. the “Kochtopus” – to affect change that helps their bottom line. So what do you think they expect from this spending on criminal justice reform?