By Miles Brown
April 22, 2014
Over the last few years, there has been a groundswell of articles from liberal publications lamenting the Koch Brothers and their influence on national politics. These articles showcased the Koch brothers as supposedly evil and dangerous men out to destroy Obama and democracy as we know it.
Mostly due to these articles, I had my mind made up that David and Charles Koch were not supporters of the working class, and that they were supporters of a system that took opportunities away from the neediest among us. But something happened last week that made me question everything I previously thought about the wealthy pair. Namely, a forum in Austin called “How the Criminal Justice System Impacts Well-Being,” hosted by the Charles Koch institute.
The April 17th forum featured a former NYC police commissioner and even the president the Texas NAACP as panelists, and concerned why “only 5 percent of the world’s population but about 25 percent of its known prison population.” I was honestly shocked that the Koch brothers — of all people — would host an event so controversial and polarizing. How could individuals whose evilness has been so engrained in the public’s mind do something that is positive and sensible?
I immediately looked online to see if I could find more information or analysis on the event, but besides a few blurbs on conservative blogs, there was absolutely no coverage of this event anywhere. I can’t be the only person who finds it fascinating that multibillionaires who bankroll so many conservative electoral campaigns would host an event that seeks to go against one of the tenets of modern conservatism. While this doesn’t change on the whole how I feel about the Koch brothers, it does give me a new-found respect for them.
The effect imprisonment has on prisoners once they reach the outside, or how mandatory minimum sentences are largely responsible for breeding career criminals, are real issues that affect not only criminals but the larger United States both socially and economically. There is substantial bipartisan support for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences and harsh sentences for non-violent drug offenders. This bipartisanship was perfectly demonstrated on the panel last Wednesday. Given that, why was no major news outlet or blog on hand to cover the forum?
It seems to me that the news cycle loves to spend more time on ranchers who like to break laws and on relentlessly pursuing info on plane crashes from months ago rather than things that could potentially lead to positive change. Most of these outlets have spent so much time vilifying the Koch brothers that to do one positive story on them would be akin to blasphemy in the eyes of their readers. But does it really have to be that way?
I am still as diametrically opposed to many of the views and efforts of the Koch brothers. But if they’re spending time, money and effort to solve an important issue that many, regardless of political ideology, are exerting effort on, it would make perfect sense to cover and support them in those efforts. Sadly, though, we live in a political climate of absolutes. A climate in which always demonize those we disagree with, regardless if they do something positive. And at this point, we really have to ask ourselves if we would rather vilify our opponents than actually work with them towards making the world a better place.