Retired football star Deion Sanders is partnering with the conservative Koch brothers to help fight poverty in Texas.
The unlikely partnership, announced on Saturday, will raise $21 million over the next three years to fund anti-poverty programs in Dallas. Sanders joined Koch donors at a weekend conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to help raise money for the new venture, called Prime 5.
He also defended the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, often demonized by Democrats, as someone simply "trying to make the world a better place."
"I'm happy where I am and who I'm with because we share a lot of the same values and goals," Sanders said when asked if he'd be willing to partner with organizations on the left.
The Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to shape politics and policy, including leading outside efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. They also support a sprawling network of privately funded education and anti-poverty programs that promote their vision of a smaller government.
Specifically, the partnership announced Saturday would help fund Dallas-based organizations that address issues such as chronic joblessness, education failure, addiction, personal debt and family breakdowns, said Evan Feinberg, who leads the Koch-backed organization Stand Together.
"We don't think top-down solutions work for these problems," Feinberg said.
Sanders, meanwhile, dismissed questions about whether the Koch partnership would invite political controversy into his efforts to strengthen poor communities.
"I've been criticized since I was 16 years old. This ain't new to me," said Sanders, nicknamed "Primetime" during his professional baseball and football career. "I've been booed simultaneously by 90,000 (people) that sung my name like a quartet. I could care less."