Ch. 1: Extremist Reentry & Right on Crime
Part 2: A Dark History Repeating Itself
1. The Koch Network and the Prison Industrial Complex
For two generations, the Koch family has funded and collaborated with a network of corporate donors, free-market extremists, politicians, and white supremacists (the subject of Chapter 3).
This network’s current incarnation is the “Seminar Network,” politically-active billionaires and multimillionaires orchestrated by Charles Koch, which meets twice per year.
The Charles Koch Foundation provides these donors with a “fully integrated” strategy where targeted funding goes to an integrated system of academics, non-profit organizations, political front groups, and politicians. These privately-controlled institutions align to transform the donor’s extremist “ideas into action” with industrial efficiency (read more here).
In the remainder of this report, we will refer to these donors as the “Koch network."
Through the 1950’s and 1960s, many early figures in the Koch network (including the Kochs) actively fought against the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these figures were members of violent white supremacist groups (subject of Chapter 3 below). For decades, this network has aggressively fought to roll back civil rights laws, while serving as the architects of the modern prison industrial complex.
One of the key enablers of the Koch network’s political success is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which allows its corporate funders to draft and advance legislation through a network of corporate-funded legislators. ALEC helped launched a network of free-market think tanks called the State Policy Network (SPN).
ALEC has received long-term financial support from private prisons and corrections contractors while serving as a key source of legislation that allowed for-profit prisons to boom. It was responsible for the creation and spread of the "tough on crime" political narrative as well as the draconian laws which filled-up the private prisons. Some famous ALEC laws include the Minimum-Mandatory Sentencing Act, Truth in Sentencing Act, “Three-Strikes-You’re-Out” laws, and bills allowing juveniles to be charged as adults. ALEC also pioneered legislation that expanded prison labor, including the "Prison Industries Act."
A leaked ALEC conference document from 1994 revealed a panel called “Campaign Crime School,” led by private prison officials, on how candidates can “campaign on crime, frame the issue effectively, [and] present a credible, tough-on-crime agenda.”
Since 2010, many of the exact same ALEC and SPN reformers who led “tough on crime”are leading the current public narrative on criminal justice reform. Fronted by a group called Right on Crime (ROC), these groups are once again pushing pro-corporate criminal justice reform.
Right on Crime describes itself as a “project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in partnership with the American Conservative Union Foundation and Prison Fellowship.”
Key figures are Jerry Madden (Right on Crime), Vikrant Reddy (Charles Koch Institute), Mark Levin (Texas Public Policy Foundation), and Pat Nolan (Prison Fellowship and with the American Conservative Union Foundation). These groups, as well as nearly all of other groups and individuals leading Right on Crime, are active within ALEC and the SPN.
Vikrant Reddy, Jerry Madden, Mark Levin, and at least two Koch Industries representatives were active on ALEC’s most notorious taskforce, the now-disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force, responsible for creating model bills that:
promote for-profit prisons and lengthen prison sentences, criminalize immigrants, expand the "war on drugs," thwart evidence-based pre-trial release programs in favor of for-profit bail-bonding…promote voter suppression, and for adopting the so-called Stand Your Ground law. (Fischer, 2012)
Pat Nolan was Vice President of Prison Fellowship Ministries, whose subsidiary, Justice Fellowship, was active in ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections task force. Nolan served alongside private prison officials and private bail advocates on ALEC’s Private Sector Executive Committee. More recently, Madden and Nolan have co-chaired ALEC’s Corrections and Reentry Working Group.
The Charles Koch Institute’s Vikrant Reddy, who was involved in the launch of Right on Crime, described how ALEC was leading the movement with Koch’s network of free-market think tanks, the SPN:
At the end of the day, the academic arguments came second. The first question was, who’s making the argument? And they had to see that the argument was being made by strongly trusted conservatives. It was being made by [Texas Public Policy Foundation] and ALEC and SPN, and so far it’s been very successful. (AEI 2016)
In addition to helping white-collar criminals like Koch Industries, Right on Crime’s reforms seek to expand and privatize post-incarceration “reentry” services while leaving all the primary problems with the criminal justice system unaddressed. This would allow the prison industrial complex to not only survive, but to dig its roots deeper and provide bigger returns (the subject of Chapter 4).
In this context, Marshall DeRosa’s state certified program shows a clear opportunity for free-market extremism and white supremacy to be further injected into corrections facilities.
This concern is not just a matter of circumstance, but is rooted in the fact that key figures in Right on Crime have close ties to hate groups, including the League of the South.
2. Right on Crime: In League with Extremists
The founder of ALEC, Paul Weyrich, founded another group called the Council for National Policy (CNP). According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), CNP is a highly secretive group that mixes large numbers of “ostensibly mainstream conservatives with far-right and extremist ideologues.” Members are sworn to secrecy, required “not to admit membership or even name the group.”
The CNP’s specifically instructed “members [to] strive for unity within the conservative movement, understanding that strength and success come through unity.”
CNP’s 2014 vision statement reads:
A united conservative movement to assure, by 2020, policy leadership and governance that restores religious and economic freedom, a strong national defense, and Judeo-Christian values under the Constitution. (CNP, 2014)
This includes the League of the South, whose longtime member and board member, Michael Peroutka, can be seen serving on CNP's Board of Governors. For context, Peroutka’s LOS membership was not a secret. He openly courted them while he was the Constitution Party’s candidate for President of the United States in 2004, and became a board member in 2013. After the LOS was designated a hate group in 2000, Peroutka remained a key figure for fourteen years.
Hate groups active within the Council for National Policy include the League of the South, Alliance Defending Freedom, National Organization for Marriage, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, the American Family Association, the Pacific Justice Institute, Liberty Counsel (whose Mathew “Mat” Staver served on the CNP’s Board of Governors), Family Research Council (whose Tony Perkins is CNP Vice President and Kenneth Blackwell was on CNP’s Executive Committee).
The CNP members that are striving “for unity” with hate groups were described by the New York Times as “a little known club of the most powerful conservatives in the country,” more specifically, a who’s who of figures in Right on Crime, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, and the Koch network.
The signatories of Right on Crime’’s Statement of Principles are described as some of the “most influential figures in the conservative movement.” A quick glance shows that the Council for National Policy is listed as a supporting organization, with the rest of the signatories made up of an alarming number of CNP members and officers, including Pat Nolan (Prison Fellowship and American Conservative Union Foundation), Kathleen Hartnett-White (Texas Public Policy Foundation), Tracie Sharp (State Policy Network), Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform), Edwin Meese III (Mercatus Center and Heritage Foundation), David Keene (National Rifle Association), and at least seven other CNP members (including anti-LGTBQ hate groups).
(The author of book Marshall DeRosa used in his “civics” course, Cleon Skousen, was also a member of the CNP.)
Key figures in the Koch network have been active members and officers of the CNP, including several who served on CNP's Board of Governors alongside the League of the South’s Michael Peroutka and other hate group leaders. Specifically, Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, John Templeton Jr. and Foster Friess (Koch’s frequent partner donors), and other insiders like the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo and Michael Grebe, (Philanthropy Roundtable/Bradley Foundation). Both Rich DeVos and the Edwin Meese III have served as CNP presidents.
The overlap between the secretive CNP and Charles Koch’s private donor seminars is so notable, that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (an attendee at Koch’s donor summits) remarked on it during a speech to the CNP:
It is so good to see so many friends again, either from Henderson when I last was here to speak to you all or from the Koch Industry's [sic] retreat out in California or from other different places. (Jindal, 2013)
In a 2015 speech to the CNP, William Walton brags “Most of my career has been spent in business and on Wall Street and I was among the first to attend the Charles Koch seminars.
Charles Koch’s private foundation has provided $100,000 to CNP between 2010 and 2012, and until recently, Charles Koch’s bio on the Koch Institute’s web-page proudly included his CNP “Free Enterprise Award.”
The “unity” driven collaboration with the CNP shows a critical example of the strategy being played by the Koch network, uniting with any group that is willing to work toward their radical free-market agenda. In leaked documents from Koch’s donor summits, donors are reminded that “free enterprise is more than just an economic system- it is a moral imperative, and we must defend it at all costs.”
This is the same strategy that unified the violent League of the South, white nationalists, and neo-Nazies at the deadly rally in Charlottesville, VA, namely - “Unite the Right.”
Charles Koch likes to put it differently. While repeatedly comparing his political work to the struggles of civil rights leaders and abolitionists (2014 and 2015), he explained his seemingly unlikely interest in criminal justice reform by quoting Frederick Douglass; “I would unite with anyone to do right, and with nobody to do wrong.”