Monday, December 29, 2014

Will Charles Koch invest in marijuana reform along with broader criminal justice reform?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this Wichita Eagle article, headlined "Charles Koch’s views on criminal justice system just may surprise you."  Here are a excerpts from a lengthy article which suggests at least one of the Koch brothers may be supportive of marijuana reform efforts:

Of all the contentious history between Koch Industries and the U.S. government, the Corpus Christi, Texas, case from 1995 is the one that Charles Koch remembers most vividly. A federal grand jury indicted his company on 97 felonies involving alleged environmental crimes at an oil refinery.

Prosecutors dropped all but one of the charges six years later, after the company spent tens of millions of dollars defending itself. Ultimately, Koch Petroleum Group agreed to pay a $10 million settlement.

“It was a really, really torturous experience,” said Mark Holden, Koch’s chief counsel. “We learned first-hand what happens when anyone gets into the criminal justice system.” Holden said Charles Koch wondered afterward “how the little guy who doesn’t have Koch’s resources deals with prosecutions like that.”

No one at Koch wants to re-litigate the Corpus Christi case, Holden said. But it prompted Charles Koch to study the justice system — both federal and state — wondering whether it has been over-criminalized with too many laws and too many prosecutions of nonviolent offenders, not only for him but for everybody. His conclusion: Yes, it has.

Ten years ago, he began giving money to support efforts by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to help train defense lawyers and reverse what some see as a national trend to get tough on crime, which has resulted in the tripling of the incarceration rate since the 1980s and has stripped the poor of their rights to a legal defense. He’s going to give more to that effort, he said.

“Over the next year, we are going to be pushing the issues key to this, which need a lot of work in this country,” Koch said. “And that would be freedom of speech, cronyism and how that relates to opportunities for the disadvantaged.” The nation’s criminal justice system needs reform, “especially for the disadvantaged,” Koch said, “making it fair and making (criminal) sentences more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.”

It has long been my understanding that at least some members of the very wealthy Koch family have libertarian leanings, and thus I have long thought some of the Koch monies spent on political concerns might go to marijuana reform efforts. If Charles Koch becomes more even vocal and active in his criminal justice reform efforts in 2015, it will be interesting to watch for any comments about marijuana reform efforts.

Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink


If Koch does support drug policy reform, his support likely won't extend beyond decriminalization. The article reported that Koch does not think marijuana should ever be legalized, "because as a drug addict, he learned first-hand that pot is 'the gateway drug to all other drugs.'"

Posted by: Kathleen Harvey | Dec 30, 2014 12:33:57 PM

On Dec. 2 I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute titled "Criminal Justice in the Commonwealth: Is it Time for a New Approach to Sentencing?" The four panelists ranged from Frank Knaack of the ACLU to Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's very conservative former attorney general. All agreed that we are incarcerating too many people and that the drug laws are part of the problem.

Posted by: Richard Kennedy | Dec 30, 2014 1:46:55 PM

Post a comment