The Koch-backed group Freedom Partners on Tuesday will kick off a six-figure spending pitch urging senators to support a House-passed prison reform bill that’s stalled amid internal GOP disagreements.
The Freedom Partners effort comes one week after President Donald Trump — who has endorsed the prisons legislation — drew fresh 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.
But the Trump-backed prisons bill is stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is joining with Democrats to insist on a broader criminal justice overhaul rather than the narrower prison-only approach.
Despite Grassley’s resistance being a key obstacle for the House-passed bill, the first round of pro-prison reform mailers from Freedom Partners targets 15 Democratic senators and two Republicans: Grassley and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-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,” Freedom Partners Chairman Mark Holden said in a statement.
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 top priority for Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
Grassley and many Democrats oppose taking up the prisons-only bill without sentencing changes advanced after lengthy bipartisan talks during the Obama administration. But the prisons bill is also said to face resistance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Democratic senators included in Freedom Partners’ latest campaign are Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Grassley’s lead partner on criminal justice policy; Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine; West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin; Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown; Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin; Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill; Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey; Florida Sen. Bill Nelson; Montana Sen. Jon Tester; Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow; Alabama Sen. Doug Jones; North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp; Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly; and Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.