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Charles Koch’s Goal: Reform the Criminal Justice System
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Charles Koch has vowed to take on the criminal justice system in the United States.

Summary: Charles Koch’s experience as a defendant in the courtroom has inspired him to revamp the country’s justice system.

Charles Koch, the billionaire conservative mega-donor who serves as the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, has announced his latest goal: reforming the criminal justice system in the United States. The Huffington Post reports that Koch said his personal experiences in the courtroom inspired him to study both the state and federal justice system.


In 2000, Koch Industries was indicted for 97 counts of environmental crimes. The case focused on a Koch Petroleum Group refinery located in Corpus Christi, Texas. Eventually, prosecutors dropped all of the charges except for one after the company agreed to pay a settlement. Koch’s chief counsel, Mark Holden, said that the case was an eye-opener for Koch, who wondered “how the little guy who doesn’t have Koch’s resources deals with prosecutions like that.”

In 2012, Sheldon Adelson donated a whopping $150 million to Republican groups.

Koch, along with his brother Dave, have earned a reputation for providing major funding to Americans for Prosperity, which is a political advocacy group that supports candidates who will cut taxes and reduce government influence. The pair has also supported criminal justice reform for several years, and, earlier this year, sponsored a forum on criminal justice issues. Charles Koch plans to increase his reform efforts in the coming year. 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. And that would be freedom of speech, cronyism and how that relates to opportunities for the disadvantaged.”

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Koch noted that sentencing especially needs reform, complaining that sentences should be “more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.”

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Koch has partnered up with some unlikely groups and individuals. For example, Koch has informally partnered up with George Soros, a progressive mega-donor, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, to focus on prison reform. Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has also praised Koch’s efforts. Holder told The Marshall Project that Koch’s donation to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers was a significant help. The association provides funding for training for attorneys who represent clients who are in need. Koch has apparently supported the group since 2004.

A law school partnership seeks to recruit and train public defenders.

Holder said, “That’s a good thing to hear—people from very different places along the ideological spectrum understanding that we have to make our criminal justice system more fair. It’s about 51 years or so after Gideon[v. Wainwright], and there are way too many people on the civil side, as well as the criminal side, who don’t have their legal needs met. There’s a justice gap. And to hear that the Koch brothers would be contributing money in that way is something that I think should be applauded.”

Read about the ACLU’s suit stemming from the death sentence of Clayton Lockett, who apparently writhed in pain before he died.

Theodore Simon, the president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is also optimistic about the Koch brothers’ support. Simon said, “We have to get beyond the corrosive idea that we have to agree with others on everything in order to cooperate on anything. This grant is going to help lawyers help the needy in our society.”

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