Koch Campaign Seeks Backing for House Prison Bill

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The Koch-backed group Freedom Partners is starting a six-figure spending pitch urging senators to support a House-passed prison reform bill that’s stalled amid Republican disagreements, Politico reports. The effort comes one week after President Trump — who has endorsed the legislation — drew attention to the issue by granting clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a first-time nonviolent offender serving a life sentence whose cause was championed by Kim Kardashian. The Trump-backed prisons bill is stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who is joining with Democrats to insist on a broader sentencing overhaul rather than the prison-only approach.

The first round of pro-prison reform mailers from Freedom Partners targets 15 Democratic senators and two Republicans: Grassley and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. “The Senate has a rare opportunity to put politics aside and pass a bipartisan bill that would protect taxpayers, increase public safety and create hope and opportunity for thousands of individuals hungry for a second chance,” said Freedom Partners Chairman Mark Holden. The House-passed bill, which would authorize new spending designed to reduce recidivism and make other changes geared toward improving prisoners’ quality of life, is a priority for Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. Grassley and Democrats oppose taking up the prisons bill without sentencing changes advanced after lengthy bipartisan talks. The prisons bill also faces resistance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Democratic senators included in the campaign are Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tim Kaine (VA), Joe Manchin (WVA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bob Casey (PA), Bill Nelson (FL), Jon Tester (MT), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Doug Jones (AL), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly )IN), and Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both MN).

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