Liberal activist Van Jones protested the Koch brothers outside their donor meeting in 2011. Groups funded by the billionaire-backed network had successfully clamored for his ouster as President Barack Obama’s green jobs czar two years earlier, labeling him a dangerous radical.
At the 2019 Koch seminar, however, there is a giant banner with Jones’s smiling face hanging inside the lobby of the posh hotel that’s hosting the meeting. He’s literally become the poster child for how the network of conservative and libertarian donors hopes to seek out unlikely allies to advance its agenda. Jones, now a CNN talking head, recorded a video with Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden about their partnership to pass the First Step Act, a sweeping overhaul of the criminal justice system that President Trump signed into law last month.
“The problem is there’s a lot of stuff we do agree on that we aren’t working on together,” Jones says in the video, which organizers played on Sunday for 634 donors who have each agreed to contribute at least $100,000 per year to Koch-sponsored groups. “You’ve got awesome people and beautiful people on both sides.”