Why the Kochs Really Embraced Criminal Justice Reform...

It looks like the Koch brothers have scammed us once again.

When news first came out that Charles and David Koch -- the Koch brothers -- were supporting criminal justice reform efforts in Congress, many of us thought, "Wow, they're actually doing something good for once."

And for good reason, too.

Criminal justice reform has, over the past few years, become one of the very few legitimately bipartisan issues in American politics, and given their public statements, it really looked like the Kochs were joining that bipartisan consensus for all the right reasons.

Here, for example, is Charles Koch on a recent episode of Morning Joe talking about why we need to reform drug laws.

Sounds pretty persuasive, right?

Boy were we naïve.

Charles and David Koch may very well want to change drug laws, but the idea that they're making this push for criminal justice reform out of the goodness of their own hearts appears to be totally and completely false.

After all the publicity they've gotten from the media and the D.C. establishment, it now turns out that the Kochs appear to want to change sentencing laws to help protect potential white collar criminals like, well, themselves or their buddies.

As the New York Times reported Wednesday, Koch Industries are backing as part of a package of criminal justice reform legislation a bill that would change the way the feds can use a legal doctrine known as "mens rea" in white collar cases.

If the bill passes, white collar criminals could get away with breaking the law if they can simply say that they "didn't know" they or their business and colleagues were breaking the law when committing the crime in question.

They can't do this now -- it's that whole "ignorance of the law is no excuse" thing.

And while this whole issue of "did they or didn't they know" might sound like a minor bit of legal esoterica, it's not.

The power to convict someone of committing a crime regardless of whether or not they knew they were breaking the law when they committed that crime is an important tool for prosecutors, especially in white collar cases.

Justice Department officials, for example, told The New York Times that not having this tool might have prevented them from getting guilty pleas in a 2013 case involving a Colorado factory farm whose listeria-infected cantaloupes killed 33 people, as well as a 2012 case involving a pharmacy that killed 3 people by selling them mislabeled drugs.

In other words, letting white collar criminals claim ignorance of the law as a defense would make it really easy for them to get away with, well, murder. And, yes, according to the New York Times, that's what the Kochs are proposing.

So yeah, this is a big deal.

It also turns out that the Koch brothers have a very personal reason for supporting these kinds of changes to federal criminal law.

As The New York Times reports, Koch Industries' general counsel and senior vice president Mark Holden "acknowledge[s]... that the company's efforts to pursue revisions in federal criminal law were inspired in part by a criminal case filed 15 years ago against Koch Industries claiming that it covered up releases of hazardous air pollution at a Texas oil refinery. Those charges resulted in a guilty plea by the company and a $20 million penalty."

As usual, the Kochs are just looking out for themselves.

And the sad thing is that even if they do really care about changing drug sentencing laws, their push to let white collar criminals off the hook could sabotage the efforts going on in Congress right now to make real change to our criminal justice system.

A bill that's effectively a gimme for polluters might be too much for many Democrats to swallow, especially now that the Justice Department has called it out as just that -- a gimme for polluters.

Ever since John D. Rockefeller started handing out shiny new dimes to children to enhance his Robber Baron image, rich people have been trying to portray themselves as concerned about average people as part of a ploy to protect their own privilege.

Sometimes we see through it and sometimes we get bamboozled, but this time we really got bamboozled

The Koch brothers don't want to reform the federal criminal code to help average Americans stay out of jail for smoking pot; they want to reform the federal criminal code to protect fat-cat polluters.

It really is as simple and dirty as that.

Welcome to life in the best democracy money can buy.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 29 weeks ago

It's all about the rich and Republicans wanting to break the law and get away with it; I've been seeing it for years. Indiana's "Left Lane Speeding" law is just the most recent example.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 29 weeks ago

Why do american people put up with this stuff?

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 29 weeks ago

#1 - please - what is indiana "left lane speeding"

Indiana's "Left Lane Speeding"Indiana's "Left Lane Speeding"

Bobkroeger's picture
Bobkroeger 8 years 29 weeks ago

Thom, I really appreciate your frequent mention of White Privliege and Male Privilege. I was wondering if you have ever interviewed Peggy McIntosh on either of your shows? It would be wonderful for us listeners. For those who are not familiar with Peggy, simply Google the phrase Peggy McIntosh White Privilege. Her writings on the subject are extraordinary. Thank you Thom for all you do.

Bob Kroeger

w1ders's picture
w1ders 8 years 29 weeks ago

Show the Kochs how our justice system works, jail them.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 29 weeks ago
Quote Hephaestus:#1 - please - what is Indiana "left lane speeding"

I'm referring to a law passed in Indiana this past summer, that requires a person, driving in the left lane of the Interstate, to pull over if a faster driver comes up behind them, even if the first driver is driving at the posted speed limit - it carries a $500.00 fine. Traffic officials have already stated publicly the law is unenforceable, but it just shows the mindset of the Republican controlled legislature here in Indiana. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is another shinning example.

douglaslee's picture
douglaslee 8 years 29 weeks ago

/dec/17/reimagining-journalism-story-one-percent/ discusses a digital news source and it's intertwined history w/OWS.

ckrob's picture
ckrob 8 years 29 weeks ago

Finally, on this Sunday November 29, 2015, our local newspaper's usual listing of guests on the big-time TV political programs (Meet the Press, etc.) included only Republicans. The feckless DNC has neglected to challenge for a share of coverage by our national media. How much further can the Dems bend over?

Steven.PBarrett 8 years 28 weeks ago

With so many things on the plate that are far more pressing, Thom goes off on one of his favorite bete noirs, his perpetual villains wearing capes, black hats n' suits and twirling their wide curvey mustaches ... while they're standing next to the track they just strapped a young maiden dressed up to look like Lady Justice. The scales she used to hold up have been taken to the villains' museum in Wichita. And who are these villains? None other than Charles and David Koch.

Thom's a bright guy who's done wonders for the progressives and for one special group of people, kids with high-end ADHD and he'll forever have a place in my heart for his trailblazing zeal and works with one of society's most often least understood kids and growing adults, (esp. those who still have it "in spades" as one doc described mine in my late forties.) So while I know he's had a long running beef with the Kochs, on this issue I'm left scratching my head. Maybe it's my old experience in criminal justice as both a correctional counselor in MA and a prob/parole officer in FL ... both oozing up and bringing me to to cry out for justice and a fair shake ... for the Kochs in Thoms's website.

I've done crazier things and taking Thom on in this issue doesn't even come close to being crazy and I have a good hunch he likes to get "negative" responses.

At least the Kochs are attempting to do something which is far more than most members of their (Republican) party. The vast maority of the pachyderms would just as soon toss each inmates' keys into the underground Ogawalla Reservoir or "outsource" the prisoners to a private firm which one day will ever conveniently lose these prisoners files and if there's been one infraction listed by any officer, that'll be the strongest black mark used to add more time and of course, keep the p ris ons ever in need of more government intervention in the form of ca$h, of course.

C'mon Thom, hold your breath and fire and let the Kochs direct their efforts to making sense out of a longstanding mess, or morass; depending on how dire you look at the situation behind each prisons wall. Given the Koch's lonstanding records ofproviding continous growth in the priviate sector, why should we be afraid to let them apply their skills and that of their company's, give it a whack without a ton of hasty judgement. What can it hurt Thom? C'mon, I KNOW you to be a fair guy even though I've never met you and became familiar with you through your books and your radio show which I try to catch some of everyday on WHMP out of Northampton, aka "NoHo," MA

lisamerrill's picture
lisamerrill 8 years 28 weeks ago

This is simply nasty:

“ALEC task force directors help craft model policy and work with legislators, think tanks, and the private sector and all the folks who might be stakeholders and are interested in a particular issue, whether it’s health care, energy or education policy,” Nelson explains. “Over the course of a year the task force has meetings, debates and dialogue from which the model policy is crafted. The beauty of our model policy process is that by the time it becomes a model, it has been vetted with think tanks, across the aisles, with stakeholders who have a business or policy interest and legislators who have perhaps tried something similar in their states and looked at different and innovative approaches to the way the policy should be crafted.”

In the coming year, ALEC will focus on the need to simplify state tax codes, cutting red tape that hampers entrepreneurship and hiring, ways states can force the federal government to be accountable for its budget, market-driven solutions to energy problems, ensuring that American students are prepared to take their places in the global economy, and “worker freedom,” or the right to refuse to join a union. As Nelson noted in her RedState blog, right-to-work states have an 8.6 percent economic growth rate, which is more than twice that of forced-union states. ALEC also supports making it easier for charter schools to be set up and function.

Reform of the criminal justice system is another item on ALEC’s agenda. The organization proposes that states re-examine mandatory minimum sentencing and take steps so that ordinary citizens will not inadvertently be turned into criminals by accidentally breaking a complicated regulation or rule that they either didn’t know was on the books or was so complex that they didn’t interpret it correctly. The state of Ohio has already enacted such a law.

- See more at: http://iwf.org/modern-feminist/2796644/ALEC-CEO-LISA-B.NELSON

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