Koch network launches effort to kill Republican border tax plan

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By Richard Cowan | INDIAN WELLS, Calif.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. Billionaire industrialist
Charles Koch is launching a campaign to sink a border tax under
consideration by Republican leaders in Congress, a move that
could complicate the lawmakers’ efforts to find a way to pay for
President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S. border with
Mexico.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy
group founded by Charles Koch and his brother David, plans to
use its network of wealthy political donors and activists to
kill the proposal, which aims to raise $1.2 trillion over 10
years on goods coming into the United States, according to
officials from the group, which gathered this weekend for a
conference.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan is
pushing the tax as part of a broader overhaul of the U.S. tax
code.

The White House has given mixed signals on whether Trump
supports the approach, but proponents say revenue collected from
the border tax could finance Trump’s drive to build a wall along
the southwestern U.S. border. Proponents also say it would
discourage U.S. manufacturers from moving abroad.

On Thursday, AFP sent a letter expressing its opposition to
the border tax to a House panel in charge of writing tax
legislation.

AFP Chief Executive Officer Luke Hilgemann, in an interview,
called the measure “a massive tax increase” on U.S. consumers,
who would pay more for foreign goods. He urged Ryan to “go back
to the drawing board.”

AFP and its offshoot organizations have become a powerful
force in U.S. politics, bolstering candidates and issues on
federal and state levels.

Besides defying Republican leaders on the border tax, the
Koch-led organization on Sunday challenged Trump on a policy he
implemented on Friday to stop the movement of people from
countries with large Muslim populations from traveling to the
United States.

“The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be
counterproductive,” said an official of the Koch network.

Koch refused to endorse Trump during his presidential
campaign, differing with the candidate over his positions on
immigration and trade policy, and his practice of singling out
companies for possible retribution if they move jobs abroad.

Nevertheless, Hilgemann said AFP had a “developing
relationship” with the Trump White House, which he said had
reached out to his organization to discuss some policy matters.

At the same time, former AFP officials have landed
high-level jobs in the Trump administration, giving the group a
conduit for airing its policy wishes.

Looking toward the 2018 congressional and gubernatorial
elections, AFP officials said they planned to boost the
network’s spending on policy and political activities to between
$300 million and $400 million, up from an estimated $250 million
for the 2016 campaigns.

Hilgemann also said AFP was laying plans to mobilize
activists to help win Senate confirmation of Trump’s pick for
the Supreme Court nominee. The White House said Trump was
planning this week to announce his pick to replace the late
Justice Antonin Scalia.



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