Obama Praises Koch Brothers for Supporting Criminal Justice Reforms

(p. A1) Once known for grim letters to fellow wealthy Americans warning of socialist apocalypse, Charles G. Koch now promotes research on the link between freedom and everyday happiness. Turn on “The Big Bang Theory” or “Morning Joe,” and you are likely to see soft-focus television spots introducing some of the many employees of Koch Industries.
Instead of trading insults with Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, Mr. Koch and his brother, David H. Koch, are trading compliments with President Obama, who this month praised the Kochs’ support for criminal justice reform at a meeting of the N.A.A.C.P.
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(p. A17) . . ., the Kochs have made cause with prominent liberals to change federal sentencing rules, which disproportionately affect African-Americans, while a Koch-backed nonprofit, the Libre Initiative, offers driving lessons and tax preparation services to Latinos.
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The brothers are sensitive to criticism that they are recent converts to issues like criminal justice. Mark Holden, the general counsel of Koch Industries, said the company had become active in defendants’ rights back in the 1990s, after four employees at a Texas refinery were snared in what the company viewed as an overzealous prosecution of federal clean air and hazardous waste laws. The company and family have long donated to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mr. Holden said, as well as to the United Negro College Fund and other charities.
“Charles obviously is a classical liberal, who believes in the Bill of Rights, and limited but necessary government,” Mr. Holden said. “If those are your guideposts, criminal justice reform is where you need to be.”
. . .
Michael L. Lomax, the president of the United Negro College Fund, said in an interview that any political dimension to the giving was not his concern.
“My focus is very narrow: Is this program working for our students?” said Dr. Lomax, adding, “I don’t really get very involved in the critics.”
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Civil libertarians have also sought the company out as a partner. Mr. Holden has made several trips to the White House, striking up a partnership with Valerie Jarrett, one of Mr. Obama’s top advisers. “People are pulling us in because we can be helpful,” Mr. Holden said.

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE. “‘Koch Brothers Brave Spotlight to Alter Image.” The New York Time (Fri., JULY 31, 2015): A1 & A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 30, 2015, and has the title “‘Koch Brothers Brave Spotlight to Try to Alter Their Image.”)

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