Editor’s Note: An earlier headline and reporting claimed the Koch network was looking to increase advertising spending to oppose the administration’s drug policy. After review by editorial staff, we determined that conclusion was incorrect. This post has been updated to include comment from a Koch networks representative, and we have removed all references to an ad buy.
Koch network leaders criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ drug policies at the organization’s ongoing Colorado conference, calling on him to not revive the war on drugs because “drugs won,” media outlets reported Sunday.
The Koch network has been a constant advocate for criminal justice reform, criticizing Sessions both when he asked Congress to repeal federal medical marijuana protections in June and when he ordered federal prosecutors to observe mandatory minimum sentences against first-time, non-violent drug offenders earlier this spring.
“You are never going to win the war on drugs. Drugs won,” Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden told the Denver Post.
Koch Industries has been a major conservative representative in pushing bipartisan criminal justice reform as a member and major funder of the Coalition for Public Safety, a justice reform advocacy group which also includes the ACLU, The Center for American Progress and other typically far-left organizations.
Sessions’ “tough-on-crime” stance has baffled many justice reform advocates after Republicans and Democrats seemed to have found common ground on the issue during the Obama administration. The country’s highest-ever incarceration rates cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, a huge reform incentive for Republicans, while the prospect of getting non-violent, first-time drug offenders out of prison drew Democratic support as well.
Sessions made it clear that he would use the full weight of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work against the years of legislative momentum behind soft-sentencing reform and reduced prison populations.
Holden said he opposes Sessions on conservative grounds, decrying the DOJ philosophy as a “failed, big government top-down approach,” that is “based on fear and emotion,” the Denver Post reported.
Despite its criticism of Sessions, however, the Koch network stands ready to work with the President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Our Network is committed to advancing a positive vision of reform that will make our communities safer while saving taxpayer money and empowering individuals who need a second chance. There is broad, bipartisan support in the Senate for these kinds of reforms and we hope to work with the White House on this issue,” a network spokesperson told TheDCNF.
Sessions has tried to lead the country back toward tougher sentencing by using the attorney general’s office as a “bully pulpit,” Steve Hawkins, president of the Coalition for Public Safety, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. However, even among Republican states, few have followed his lead.
The Republican-controlled Louisiana House passed a massive 10-bill criminal justice reform package in May to decrease the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next decade.
Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bail reform measure June 6 to get more people out of jails, and Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill June 5 to reduce the state’s recidivism rate by matching restitution payments to an inmate’s ability to pay.
Holden argued that states need more conservative justice reform.
“I’m not here to say our position is legalize drugs or anything else,” Holden said. “But I don’t think that we should criminalize those types of things and we should let the states decide.”
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