On Thursday, American Bridge, which is a Democratic super-PAC founded by once-righty/now-lefty political attack dog David Brock, released a sneering online flier titled "The Koch Brothers' Criminal Justice Pump-Fake," attempting to dissuade gullible liberals from believing that the two most influential long-term funders of libertarian causes and organizations are really sincere with their latest efforts to roll back government overreach on criminal justice.
So, for instance, we learn such alleged facts as that the "Origins Of Koch Interest In Criminal Justice Reform" was "97 Indictments For Environmental Violations Prosecution Against Koch Industries," and that the "Purpose Of Koch Interest In Criminal Justice Reform" is "Good Press While Advancing Their Financial Interests." Boilerplate political demonization (with multiple links to Wonkette), none of it surprising to those who have followed the career of David Brock, or who have tracked mirror-image righty demonizations of philanthropist-turned-political-financier George Soros. Politics makes people stupid, etc.
But then the man bit the attack dog. Liberal groups who have collaborated with Koch organizations on criminal justice are snapping back at American Bridge. Buzzfeed has the details:
"I hope they hold onto that report and frame it," said Van Jones, a progressive organizer and former Obama administration official currently leading #Cut50, a prominent bipartisan criminal justice effort. "They can frame it right next to the picture of Obama signing a bill by Christmas and keep it as an object lesson in the downsides of division and also the incredible possibility in a democratic system for ideas to breakthrough."
It's a weird turn of events, but the unsurprising conclusion to the drug war collision course: progressives and libertarians, led by the Kochs, agree that the tough-on-crime policies of the 1980s and '90s need to change, from mandatory-minimum sentencing to the use of criminal records in hiring. President Obama even praised the Kochs this week, a week in which he commuted the life sentences of 46 drug offenders and advocates say big changes could really be coming. […]
For Democrats trying to get bills passed in Congress, the timing of the American Bridge attack was a head-scratcher. Progressives credit Koch-backed efforts inside the GOP with bringing old-school tough-on-crime Republicans to the bargaining table with advocates, seen as the key to getting a legislation done and sealing another part of Obama's legacy.
"It doesn't make much strategic sense," said one Obama administration ally. "Who fucking cares why they're doing it if Republicans can point to them when they're supporting reform?"
This dead-ender sleazebaggery is nothing new for American Bridge. Back in 2012, as former Reasoner Mike Riggs reminds us today, the group attacked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for—wait for it!—"oppos[ing] additional funding for anti-drug enforcement efforts," and also opposing "funds for high intensity drug program in 2000."
Fortunately, as Jacob Sullum pointed out this morning, criminal justice reform has so much bipartisan grassroots momentum right now that even Bill Clinton and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) are getting on board.
(David Koch is a Reason Foundation trustee.)