Tag Archives: Charles Koch

Charles Koch Says ‘Bernie Sanders Is Right’ on Criminal Justice, Corporate Welfare

Billionaire Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch says he agrees with U.S. Senator from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders “that we have a two-tiered society that increasingly dooms millions of our fellow citizens to lives of poverty and hopelessness.

In an op-ed published Thursday in The Washington Post, Koch said that he believes that the U.S. political and economic system is “often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged.

[Sanders] thinks many corporations seek and benefit from corporate welfare while ordinary citizens are denied opportunities and a level playing field. … I agree with him,” added Koch.

[RELATED: Obama Praises Rand Paul, Koch Brothers in NAACP Criminal Justice Reform Speech]

Bernie Sanders frequently personally denounces the Koch brothers by name on the campaign trail. His Senate website states, “The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.

Koch said that even though Sanders often criticizes him personally, he sees “benefits in searching for common ground and greater civility during this overly negative campaign season.

Consider the regulations, handouts, mandates, subsidies and other forms of largesse our elected officials dole out to the wealthy and well-connected. The tax code alone contains $1.5 trillion in exemptions and special-interest carve-outs. Anti-competitive regulations cost businesses an additional $1.9 trillion every year. Perversely, this regulatory burden falls hardest on small companies, innovators and the poor, while benefitting many large companies like ours. This unfairly benefits established firms and penalizes new entrants, contributing to a two-tiered society,” said Koch, who argued that “it’s not enough to say that government alone is to blame. Large portions of the business community have actively pushed for these policies.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Charles Koch Rips Hypocrisy of Pot Criminalization]

Koch declared that Koch Industries “opposes all forms of corporate welfare — even those that benefit us” and pointed to his company’s opposition to a government ethanol mandate despite the fact that it is the fifth-largest producer of ethanol in the U.S.

The billionaire also highlighted his common ground with Sanders on criminal justice reform. Koch complained that harsh criminal laws targeting non-violent drug offenders are upending families and lives. He noted that poor people who cannot afford top legal representation often find themselves punished harshly for pot possession, while wealthy people with connections are treated differently. He also said that he feels that businesses should voluntarily assist in reforming the criminal justice system by ceasing to ask potential employees about their past criminal convictions in an effort to help ex-convicts obtain jobs and rejoin society.

Koch stopped short of saying that he is “feeling the Bern” and noted that he disagrees with Sanders’ “desire to expand the federal government’s control over people’s lives,” arguing that expansive federal power “is what built so many barriers to opportunity in the first place.

When it comes to electing our next president,” Koch opined, “we should reward those candidates, Democrat or Republican, most committed to the principles of a free society. Those principles start with the right to live your life as you see fit as long as you don’t infringe on the ability of others to do the same. They include equality before the law, free speech and free markets and treating people with dignity, respect and tolerance. In a society governed by such principles, people succeed by helping others improve their lives.

Koch, who is not yet backing any specific presidential candidate, concluded by saying that he is looking for a candidate who “can demonstrate a commitment to a set of ideas and values that will lead to peace, civility and well-being rather than conflict, contempt and division.

According to Politico, the Koch brothers’ donor network is set to spend $750 million advocating political causes over the next two years, less than the $900 million that was originally planned, due to a decline in contributions.

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VIDEO: Charles Koch Rips Hypocrisy of Pot Criminalization

Billionaire philanthropist and Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch blasted the hypocrisy of pot criminalization’s disproportionate enforcement in an October interview on CBS This Morning.

In the interview, which can be seen in the above-embedded video, Koch said, “Some poor kid in the inner city smokes a joint, goes to prison, ruins his life, where we have a president who is more privileged, who smoked a joint, becomes president. We have a candidate who admits smoking a joint — he’s running for president. Now, where is the justice in that?

The controversial Koch brothers have long pushed for criminal justice reforms that would reduce or eliminate harsh criminal penalties for non-violent offenders.

[RELATED: Obama Praises Rand Paul, Koch Brothers in NAACP Criminal Justice Reform Speech]

Speaking in terms of principles, Koch said, “I think government is a social agency of coercion. Now that sounds horrible and bad, but we need coercion. Beyond that, government should only be doing those things where coercion works better than voluntary cooperation and competition… But the burden of proof needs to be on the government.

Koch told CBS correspondent Anthony Mason that he dislikes the tone that many Republican candidates have struck on immigration in 2016 presidential primary debates. “We need to reform our immigration policy, letting everyone in this country who’s going to make the country better and let in no one who is going to make it worse,” he said.

Describing his business philosophy, Koch explained, “The way to succeed long term is not to think how do I maximize profits, but how do… we maximize the value we create for others.

[RELATED: Charles Koch Blasts Crony Capitalism, Calls Subsidies ‘Welfare for the Wealthy’]

The Koch brothers are oft-vilified by political progressives who characterize their high levels of spending to promote political causes and candidates as efforts to buy elections.

I get a lot of death threats. I’m now on al-Qaeda’s hit list too. It gets pretty scary… I decided long ago I’d rather die for something than live for nothing,” said the billionaire.

He added, laughing off the challenges of pushing for his political views in the face of so much opposition, “My goal was to get more and more people to understand what makes their lives better, what’s fair, what’s a just society… You know, it’s hard to save the world when the world doesn’t want to be saved.

Charles Koch Blasts Crony Capitalism, Calls Subsidies ‘Welfare for the Wealthy’

At last week’s EY Strategic Growth Forum in California, Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch said that government policies aimed at benefiting certain monolithic companies in the short term cause more harm than good in the long term. He blasted corporate welfare and called for CEOs to join him in lobbying against policies that create market distortions favoring particular companies or industries over others.

Koch told Yahoo Finance, “This is creating a two-tiered system where opportunities for the disadvantaged are being destroyed and we’re creating welfare for the wealthy, so it’s unjust.

It’s an unjust system, and it’s making people’s lives worse,” he added.

[RELATED: Obama Praises Rand Paul, Koch Brothers in NAACP Criminal Justice Reform Speech]

Koch admitted that his own Koch Industries currently benefits from a variety of incentives, but feels that his company and the U.S. economy would flourish more if politicians leveled the playing field and stopped doling out special favors to certain companies. Government subsidy tracker Good Jobs First notes that Koch Industries has received over $200 million in federal and state subsidies and federal loan guarantees.

We advocate the elimination of all these distortions, even those from which we currently benefit – such as ethanol mandates, restrictions on the export of crude oil and natural gas, and import tariffs. As an ethanol producer and large consumer of U.S. crude oil and natural gas, we profit short term from these market distortions. But rules like these – that don’t lead to good profit – leave virtually everyone worse off long term, including us,” wrote Koch in his book Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies.

Koch said that he fears that government interventions into the economy will lead to a future in which the government and the Federal Reserve control American companies. He said that he believes that free market policies allow customers to drive corporate decision-making, which he feels benefits the economy more than bailouts and subsidies aimed at strengthening top U.S. companies.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: Citizens United Ruling Lets Advocacy Groups Expose Politicians’ Voting Records]

PR Watch points out that the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners advocacy nonprofit “has spent hundreds of millions in elections in part to tackle ‘rent-seeking,’ ‘corporate welfare,’ and other forms of cronyism.

Koch wrote in a 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Far too many businesses have been all too eager to lobby for maintaining and increasing subsidies and mandates paid by taxpayers and consumers. This growing partnership between business and government is a destructive force, undermining not just our economy and our political system, but the very foundations of our culture.

Billionaires Charles Koch, George Soros to Team Up on Criminal Justice Reform in 2015

Billionaire philanthropist Charles Koch is often demonized by liberal politicos and painted as a robber-baron type figure, despite his unflinching support for liberal-friendly issues like marriage equality, drug legalization, and defense cuts. George Soros typically funds progressive causes with his titanic wealth, drawing the ire of conservatives. As 2015 approaches tomorrow morning, The Wichita Eagle is reporting on some comments by Charles Koch that indicate that his New Year’s plans include spending even more of his so-called disproportionate wealth promoting criminal justice reform on behalf of those too poor to defend themselves from excessive sentences and wrongful arrests. What’s more, his push for fairness in the criminal justice system has placed him in an unusual position as the tag team partner to left-leaning billionaire George Soros, who is also funding the same cause.

Charles Koch has been funding efforts to reform the criminal justice system for a decade. He was first inspired to take on the issue when one of his companies, Koch Petroleum Group, was charged with 97 felonies in 1995, 96 of which were later dropped by prosecutors, but only after draining millions of dollars in fines and legal fees. The ordeal barely put a dent in the Koch fortune, but it did cause Charles Koch to reflect on what might have happened had he fallen victim to overzealous felony prosecutions without having sufficient wealth to afford top-notch legal representation.

Ten years ago, Koch dollars were first injected into the fight against the zero-tolerance, tough-on-crime War on Drugs policies that caused America to have the world’s highest incarceration rate when Charles Koch began pumping funds into the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in an effort to support their push-back against the rise of draconian criminal sentencing policies. Though his efforts have continued to this day, Koch plans to increase his spending on the issue in 2015. Said Koch to The Wichita Eagle, “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.” He said that he intends to promote changes to the criminal justice system in hopes of “making it fair and making (criminal) sentences more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.”

Charles Koch’s attorney Mark Holden said, “We have more of America now in prison than they ever did [in South Africa] in apartheid. Let that swirl around in your head for a while.” Holden pointed out that legislative efforts to criminalize more and more activities with tougher and tougher penalties have disproportionately affected minority communities that are often subjected to racial profiling by law enforcement. “It definitely appears to have a racial angle, intended or not,” said Holden.

Koch’s reform efforts will be aimed at resolving some of the key issues caused by overzealous prosecutions in the wake of America’s zero tolerance society, including lack of funding for legal defense for the poor and the inability of once-incarcerated, non-violent individuals to move on with their lives by obtaining jobs and regaining their voting rights after being released.

As Americans debate the issue with chaotic scenes in Ferguson, MO and New York City as a backdrop, Charles Koch now finds himself on the side of George Soros and most American progressives, a fact which flabbergasted left-leaning commentators at The Huffington Post. With two financial titans from opposing political poles doubling down on criminal justice reform, major changes to the justice system may be around the corner in 2015.