EXCLUSIVE AUDIO: Koch Retreat Talks United Negro College Fund




June 15, 2014




Part 3

“Drive the National Conversation”



KEVIN GENTRY: All right, ladies and gentlemen, if you would please take your seats. Well, we’re going to continue to get really valuable feedback on how we can make these meetings better from your standpoint that really informs how we put these programs together and how to organize them and structure them. And one of the things that we figured out for talking points for Senate material from the presentations is we’re going to give a lot of that to you tomorrow in some of the afternoon presentations. And if we don’t get it to you tomorrow, we’ll follow up with you as well so that — I know a number of folks are trying to take notes very quickly. Sometimes (inaudible) what you think will be most helpful to you, and perhaps you can use it more effectively as well.

I know Will Ruger has a lot on his plate. I think he’s also willing to make that presentation to other groups if you think it would be valuable (inaudible). What are you doing back there? My God (inaudible). Thank you very much, Dale. You got to like him. You really do.

So this afternoon is essentially divided into three presentations that take the form that Rich was making in the previous presentation on the three topics (inaudible) today: driving the national narrative, taking advantage of science and the universities, and then also advancing in the states.

And so, toward this, as in the other conversation, Dale Gibbens who has become somewhat familiar to a number of you all (inaudible). Dale is the head of human resources at Koch Industries, and you’ll hear the story about Charles recruiting him (inaudible) for leadership in this effort and also building these capabilities. And (inaudible) interesting ways to talk about it a little bit more effectively to communicate to you guys here, and educate you specifically more effectively on the dangers of big government as well as the advantages of a free society. So, Dale, take it away.

DALE GIBBEN: Thank you, Kevin, and I’m glad to be here. Welcome to all of you to beautiful Southern California. I hear it’s (inaudible). So I’m glad to be here.

Well, as Charles and others have mentioned, the reason we’re here doing what we do is to help improve people’s lives as they see it. And we believe that advancing a free society as a top (inaudible) is the most effective, and frankly, maybe the only way to make this happen.

So I’m very excited for this panel this afternoon. It’s going to be very interesting. We believe that the critical piece of this strategy at this point out is to drive a national conversation with the goal to have citizens across the country who are debating and discussing and actually working on real solutions instead of just firing rhetoric and lashing out back and forth with each other. So this afternoon what we’d like to do is to explore that a little bit and talk about how to drive the national conversation.

Now, clearly we are in the early stages of this. We are not anywhere near being able to (inaudible). But today we have a panel that’s going to focus on this, and focus, in particular, on reaching across divisional lines with potentially unlikely allies. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that today in order to find common ground and figure out how we can work together to have a conversation and begin to develop real solutions to help people improve their lives.

So I’m excited for that. It’s our belief that we’re going to have to do this procedure, and we’re going to have to do it with people we may not always agree with on every issue. There’s no question that there’s some issues that we’ll talk about that these gentlemen up here (inaudible) there’s some that we may not completely agree on. To be honest with you, there’s a lot of people in this room that don’t agree with each other. I often disagree with Rich, but he’s convinced me that he’s right, so (inaudible).

So let me start by introducing by our panel today, and these guys — these gentlemen are the (inaudible) examples on how we form alliances that perhaps some wouldn’t expect and might surprise you a little bit.

So I’ll start off by introducing Dr. Michael Lomax to my left here next (inaudible). Dr. Lomax is the President of the United Negro College Fund, and you may have heard that recently Koch Industries and the Koch Foundation announced a partnership with UNCF where we’ll contribute up to $25 million for merit-based scholarships for young and women as they attempt to reach their potential through education. So we’re glad to have Michael with us this afternoon.

Next, down to my left is Norman Reimer. Norman is the Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. This is a group that we’ve worked with for a number of years on over-criminalization issues, and have done a number of events recently. Norman will tell you a little bit more about that, what his group is doing, and their work is particularly focused on removing legal barriers for the impoverished population.

Next to him we have Steve Lombardo. Steve is our new — Koch Industries’ new Chief Marketing and Communications Officer. Steve brings a wealth of experience in the communications, messaging, and branding arena. In some ways, he’s become (inaudible) been working here for a while. Steve is going to — Steve is going to help us — he’s involved with the UNCF effort as well, and he’s going to help strategists.

And then we have another family member up here (inaudible). So Rich Fink. So let’s get started. All right, Rich, why don’t you kick things off and talk to us a little bit about why you believe driving the national conversation is so important, particularly (inaudible).

RICHARD FINK: (Inaudible) comments about (inaudible) and that is, I think what we need to do is pull the country together. You know, I think the American people (inaudible) really (inaudible) want to cooperate and solve problems and make things right, as opposed to these vicious (inaudible) another.

So in some sense, they do like — Norman and Michael, in our group are unlikely allies. In quite another sense, very smooth and natural allies, (inaudible) and reaching people that are working hard to add value to people’s lives. That’s exactly what we do. (Inaudible) areas of commonality to get something to done to help people reach their own full potential is exactly what we’re about, as he said.

And we do this (inaudible) taxpayers will unite America to focus on a positive vision. That’s what this group does. This group creates value, okay? The other side creates divisiveness, but we solve problems. And I think working with everybody who is (inaudible) to solve problems is exactly how (inaudible).

DALE GIBBENS: Michael, (inaudible).

MICHAEL LOMAX: Well, look, polarization is something we experience every day (inaudible) just demonstrated again that the nation is deeply divided, and it’s not just that people disagree. We demonize the people that we don’t agree with. And we think that they’re not just wrong-headed, they’re bad. And so, that’s a terrible environment to try to get anything done, and it’s an almost impossible environment in which to affirm something (inaudible) nationally, as opposed to merely sectarian.

So at the UNCF we’re not big idea people. We’re not ideological. We’re just trying to move a needle. And the needle that we’ve been trying to move for 70 years is getting African-American kids to and through college. We started doing that at the end of World War II in 1944. We couldn’t do it by ourselves, and we worked with business leadership in this country. John D. Rockefeller led our first campaign with $750,000 in 1944. And over the 70 intervening years, we’ve raised $4 billion (inaudible).


MICHAEL LOMAX: Prescott Bush was on that first committee. You know, Eli Lilly was alive and well (inaudible). Paul Mellon and a whole a lot of wonderful people wrote checks. But they did it in order to help people help themselves. And today all we want to do is move that needle, to give more college-ready high school graduates a chance to earn a college degree and live their life. And so, I’m here working with, uh, in this partnership because this is what we’ve been doing for 70 years, and we’ve got to do a whole lot more. Thank you.


DALE GIBBENS: Norm, what’s your perspective on that?

NORMAN REIMER: Well, my perspective — I’ll tell you why we have to have unlikely alliances in order to drive the national conversation. I come to this from the standpoint of a criminal defense lawyer. Our Constitution has the most amazing provision. It requires that when the government goes after someone and tries to take away their liberty, destroy their reputation, in some cases even take their livelihoods, they are entitled to have somebody stand up for them. Now, I would venture to say that there probably isn’t a single person in this group who doesn’t have a friend, or a relative, or a co-worker, a neighbor, someone who you care about who hasn’t been caught up in the criminal justice system in this country.

Our criminal justice system has become overly abusive, overly inclusive, and far detached from what it was supposed to do, which is to go after people who are fundamentally, practically bad people. And as a result of that, I want to just put some perspective on this and give some numbers. Numbers can be very, very enduring.

This country today has 2.1 million people in prison as we sit here. We have five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisons. You heard Will Ruger in his wonderful speech earlier today talk about how we have four percent of the population and 34 percent of the world’s (inaudible). Well, there’s something very wrong. We aren’t a Nation of bad people. We couldn’t possibly be that bad. We are a Nation that has made bad choices, and these choices have been made by politicians of every perspective, and we have to do something about that.

And so, my view is that the way we’re going to do something about that is by reaching out to different points of view, find some common ground, and begin to get our arms around this problem. We have — I think it’s (inaudible) large numbers. (Inaudible) We are arresting 14 million people a year. There are between 65 and 70 million American adults who have a criminal record. That’s one in four adults in this country.

On top of all of that we have something called collateral consequences. These are the hidden penalties, the part of the sentences that aren’t imposed by a judge, that prosecutors don’t ask for, but that (inaudible) people for the rest of their lives, making it impossible to get into work, sometimes to get educational loans, to get into housing. We have got to tackle that problem. We’ve got to drive the national conversation. Look at this problem and face up to it.


DALE GIBBENS: Awesome. Michael, could you explain a little bit more to us how you partnered with Koch and what exactly (inaudible)?

MICHAEL LOMAX: Well, first of all, although this has gotten a lot of attention, our friends at — Charles is laughing.


MICHAEL LOMAX: And, you know, and we knew we were going to get attention. And what I have hopefully demonstrated to Charles is that what I said as far that once given a grant, UNCF does not return it, and so —


MICHAEL LOMAX: But no matter how tough the questions we would get from the media, they aren’t as tough as the questions I get from young people every day, which is, Dr. Lomax, how am I going pay for my college tuition? Today, UNCF is the number one provider of scholarships for minority college students in this country. We will award 12,000 scholarships this year valued at $100 million and over to students at 900 colleges and universities. That’s scale and that’s impact.

But for every one of those scholarships, we’re going to turn down nine highly qualified kids because we don’t have the money to support them. So when I came to Koch Industries, who’s been a partner of ours now for nine years when they bought Georgia Pacific, I said, look, you know, you guys have been helping us with emergency scholarships and you’ve supported some of our assistance programs. Let’s do something together which, which demonstrates that if you make a $5,000 scholarship award to a student their freshman year of college, she has a 90 percent chance (inaudible). And you’ll increase the African-American — increase the African-American graduation rate by 70 percent.

So what we are working to do is to demonstrate that a small investment in a hardworking, industrious, focused student can remove a financial barriers and help her graduate, and we can do this with (inaudible). Twenty-five hundred dollars every semester (inaudible). And with the (inaudible) program, we’re hoping to demonstrate what that investment will (inaudible).

One of the criticisms we got from this was — mind control.


MICHAEL LOMAX: They have not met the kids. I can’t control my own kids (inaudible).


MICHAEL LOMAX: But what I will tell you is that students want the opportunity to pursue their academics without worrying about how they’re going to pay. And this is going to give good students the chance to focus on what they need to focus on, which is getting an education. And we’re going to focus on two areas that they’re going to work on across institutions and in the network, and that is entrepreneurship and innovation.

And the only thing I will tell you that African-American kids want more than a college degree is a successful career, and many of them want to work for great companies like Koch Industries and a whole lot of them want to start there. And so, I think that the one thing that we’re not hearing is that these folks don’t know anything about running a business. And so, we’re expecting that our students are going to a chance to learn from their successes (inaudible).

DALE GIBBENS: All right. You’ve been involved with a number of campaigns and in particular with the UNCF effort. Why is it so powerful for something like this (inaudible)?

STEVE LOMBARDO: You know, the — after (inaudible) about mind control, I’d really would like to do some of that in our communications efforts. Norman points out about the arrest rate and criminalization and so forth. Makes me wonder why Koch Industries wasn’t arrested for giving $25 million to UNCF.


STEVE LOMBARDO: It was a very important — and I think I credit Michael and the team for this. It was very important that we accentuate the positive about this. And part of that, and I give credit to a lot of people here, was message discipline along the way. When they’re (inaudible) are coming across, we stuck to our message, and our message was about helping people improve their lives. And in this case, he conveyed the news.

So, you know, in that case it was very easy to promote our conversation because we stuck to a positive message. And, you know, a lot of times Michael handled a lot of very difficult questions along the way, but we have a message discipline, and I think that was clear.

And, look, ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. We ended up with this AP story that Michael did an interview with. It was a terrific story. It was picked up by 30 media outlets across the country. And over a week’s period we had a little over 15,000 social media messages. Most of them were on Twitter. And of those, 87 percent were positive. So kudos to Michael and the team. They did a great job.

DALE GIBBENS: Norman, why don’t you talk a little bit more in detail about the project that you have?

NORMAN REIMER: (Inaudible) about where we’re going and how I think we’re going to (inaudible). Thank you for the investment that Koch Industries made with us. We’ve been able to build some bridges with (inaudible). So let me give you some of the basics of how this would work out.

We did a report a number of years ago that had a profound impact. It was cited widely on the failure of the Congress to have adequate intent requirements in the laws that they passed. Intent means the moral (inaudible). We seem to be punishing people that they don’t know that they did something wrong.

And this is a project I did jointly with the Heritage Foundation, an extraordinary (inaudible). And I was privileged to having as my co-author (inaudible), Former Attorney General Edwin Meese. I have to tell you that got a lot of attention. We went up to the Hill, and we presented it. And we had people that you wouldn’t believe would even be in the same room patting us on the back and thanking us for this work.

Another example is a coalition that gets together now every month on over-criminalization (inaudible). We have representatives from (inaudible) mandatory minimums, from the Chamber of Commerce, but all kinds of different groups. This is percolating (inaudible) and dialogue (inaudible) that common ground.

Another example is a quite an interesting story (inaudible), there is in the House a task force on over-criminalization. It’s been formed under the Crime Committee in Judiciary (inaudible) eight hearings on (inaudible) at different aspects of over-criminalization.

Now, I can’t say that anything is going to come out of this in this session of Congress. But what I can say is this. When you have a Bobby Scott, a Louis Gohmert, and John Conyers, and Goodlatte, and Sensenbrenner, and Bachus, and Hakeem Jeffries all sitting and working on a project together, that’s pretty remarkable.

I’ll give you two more examples. A few weeks ago, I was invited down to Austin by the Charles Koch Institute to do a — to participate in a panel that would be talking about this problem that we have with mass incarceration and how we get people reintegrated into society. That was a panel that not only included unions, but it included the right-on-crime folks. It included the former Police Commissioner from New York and former Federal inmate, Bernard Kerik. And it also included the President of the NAACP. And that combination of people up there on the stage (inaudible) lit up the social media networks. I mean, everybody was buzzing and chattering about what (inaudible) is that we’re coming together and we’re finding common ground on these things.

The last example I’ll give you is we just recently released a report on what we’re calling the “Restoration of Life,” which is how to fix this problem of getting people who have had a brush with the criminal law back into a productive mode. And the room was filled with people from across the political spectrum and the media, from NPR to the Wall Street Journal. That’s the kind of (inaudible) for.

So let me just close out my view on all of this by saying this. It’s obvious to anyone who’s spent 30 seconds with me that I’m passionate about criminal justice reform. But I’m even more passionate about our democracy. And I have come to the conclusion that we cannot afford the luxury of not having discourse with those we disagree with. Our system of checks and balances will permanently result in gridlock if we turn our back on discourse and compromise.

And I’ll close with just one very personal thing that I’ve been thinking about as I sit here today. When I was a young man growing up in the 1950s, I had — I was very interested in public affairs (inaudible). And I had two heroes. One was William F. Buckley, and the other was a man by the name of Allard Lowenstein (inaudible). I’m sure everybody knows Buckley. He was the father of the modern conservative movement.

But Allard Lowenstein was a very liberal congressman. He served one term in Congress and was most noted for leading the dump LBJ movement. But he was a brilliant man, and he would engage with Buckley on (inaudible) year in and year out. And they would have the most wonderful discussions. First, they would identify the issues, they would figure out where they agreed (inaudible), and then they would passionately talk about how (inaudible) had it all wrong. In the 1980s, Allard Lowenstein was tragically murdered by a deranged (inaudible). His family reached out to Bill Buckley (inaudible).

So the lesson to be learned from that is this. These are people who had fundamentally different ideologies, fundamentally different views, but both loved their country, and both were willing to engage. That’s what we have to do. That’s how we’re going to drive the discourse in this country. That’s how we’re going to drive the national conversation. Being willing to listen and absorb, and have thoughtful, thought-provoking interaction. And we will find solutions to these problems.


DALE GIBBENS: Michael, (inaudible) be part of something that is helping people improve their lives. And I know you and I talked a little bit about your relationship with this group. What final thoughts do you have on (inaudible)?

MICHAEL LOMAX: Well, I would say, first of all, that we survived this week, the announcement of this partnership. I wasn’t sure —


MICHAEL LOMAX: I wasn’t so sure at the beginning of the week. I think we survived because I think Americans are hungry for the opportunity to believe in something together and actually to work on it in partnership. And it’s painful the amount of acrimony that is out there on the public airwaves.

And (inaudible) when I went on the Tom Joyner Morning Show — I know you all probably don’t know who Tom Joyner is (inaudible). And he is noted for black radio in the morning drive time, and gave me a hard time about it. And finally Tom Joyner said, “You know, do good. Do good.” And he said, “You know, I’m fine with it.”

I think a lot of people warm up to (inaudible). And there are not many ways of doing good any better than helping a young kid achieve his or her dream of a college education. I take that very seriously for the rest of us. I took that potentially at risk.

I believe that there’s (inaudible) opportunities. And I moved out there on faith, and my faith was rewarded. By the end of the week, we had over 500 students already on that website trying to be to be Koch scholars.


MICHAEL LOMAX: The demand and the means are there, so I think have three things that we’ve got to do: we can’t do something (inaudible) and assume the attacks won’t continue, so I think we’ve got to remain vigilant and tell our story of this partnership consistently and accurately.

And number two, UNCF has got to keep reminding all Americans of our mission. For 40 years we’ve been telling folks, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” It still is — we’ve added something to that — “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste, But a Wonderful Thing to Invest In,” and we need more investment. And I think it’s real important that over the next 12 to 24 months that we demonstrate to America that this courageous partnership between Koch Industries, and Charles Koch Foundation, and UNCF has been good for America and that it’s wound up (inaudible) of investing in our kids and building a better future for them (inaudible).

I support wholeheartedly what Norman said. Education and incarceration are inextricably linked. And young people who don’t get an education are more vulnerable to incarceration. The greatest predictor of who’s going to jail is (inaudible). And you know, and so I want to make sure that all those kids who overcome all those barriers and do everything right, stick to that (inaudible) in that college classroom are able to get that education. And that’s why I’m joining up with Koch Industries and Charles Koch Foundation on this project. And I hope that others will link arms with us, and Norman, and (inaudible) and demonstrate that national purpose hasn’t been lost in sectarian (inaudible).


DALE GIBBENS: (Inaudible) Norm and Michael (inaudible), thank you for your courage in being here. This is an example of what we’re trying to (inaudible) the national conversation (inaudible). Thank you very much


(End of session.)

















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