White House meets with Koch officials on criminal justice reform

White House meets with Koch officials on criminal justice reform
White House senior adviser Valerie JarrettValerie June JarrettValerie Jarrett: 'Our country is ready for a female president' Valerie Jarrett: Obama would be impeached 'in a nanosecond' for behaving like Trump Roseanne Barr: ‘I’ve made myself a hate magnet’ MORE on Thursday met with Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden in an effort to bolster a rare bipartisan coalition pushing to overhaul the criminal justice system. 
 
It was the fourth meeting between the unlikely allies over proposals to reduce the nation's prison population, a top priority for both President Obama and conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, two of the most influential donors in Republican politics.
 
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Jarrett, Holden and White House counsel Neil Eggleston, who also attended the meeting, all agreed to focus their efforts around a bill that would lessen mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
 
"This was a productive conversation about the importance of focusing legislative efforts on areas in which there is strong bipartisan agreement," the White House said in a statement. 
 
The bipartisan coalition behind a criminal-justice reform bill is hoping for a vote on that measure early next year, before the 2016 campaign overtakes events on Capitol Hill. 
 
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have both indicated the legislation will receive a floor vote next year. 
 
But the Koch-Obama alliance has been tested over key differences between criminal-justice bills in the House and Senate.
 
One measure in the House would toughen "mens rea" requirements to prove that defenders knowingly committed a criminal act. Koch Industries believes the provision would make the criminal code fairer, but the Obama administration says it would make it more difficult to prosecute corporate pollution and food tainting cases, as well as other white-collar crimes. 
 
Jarrett and Eggleston relayed their concerns to Holden about the "mens rea" proposal during Thursday's huddle, according to the White House.
 
The group discussed other areas of mutual agreement, including programs to reduce recidivism and eliminating occupational licensing requirements, which both sides argue make it harder for the formerly incarcerated to get jobs.
 
Thursday's meeting follows a huddle between Obama and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle at the White House last week designed to talk through differences in the legislation. 
 
The White House is also continuing to push for changes to the system in public. It convened a panel last week featuring conservative activist Grover Norquist, actor Michael B. Jordan — the star of "Creed" who also appeared in HBO's "The Wire" — and “The Wire" creator David Simon.