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Koch Brothers' Groups Are Lobbying Congress to Curb President Trump's Authority on Tariffs

Alana Abramson

The network backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is launching a six-figure ad campaign and sending letters to every member of Congress urging them to pass a bill that would curb President Donald Trump’s authority to impose tariffs.

The network is urging Congress to support the Global Trade Accountability Act, legislation introduced by Utah Sen. Mike Lee at the beginning of Trump’s presidency. The bill would restore some of Congress’ constitutional authority to regulate foreign trade, requiring the President to seek approval from both houses of Congress before implementing any trade policy. Currently, the White House can act unilaterally on trade sanctions.

“By restoring congressional authority to review and approve tariffs, this legislation would help achieve an appropriate and measured balance between the legislative and executive branches in consideration of these important policies,” the letter reads.

The letter cites reports of companies feeling the adverse impacts, both real and anticipated, of Trump’s tariffs on foreign countries. Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, including on imports from Mexico, Europe and Canada. This past Monday, he ordered the U.S. Trade Representative to prepare tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods – his second round of tariff requests on the country – inching the U.S. closer to a trade war with a key economic power.

The Koch-backed ad campaign and letter are the first major phase of the network’s multi-year, multi-million dollar campaign to promote free trade and oppose tariffs. Freedom Partners, the organization that coordinates the network’s political activities, is launching television and radio ad campaigns, which will run in the Washington D.C. market and national conservative talk programs, respectively. They are joining with Americans for Prosperity and the Libre Initiative, two other groups under the Koch umbrella, to send the letters to members of Congress.

“Tariffs are taxes that make Americans poorer. They raise our cost of living and force higher expenses on our businesses,” James Davis, Executive Vice President of Freedom Partners, said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the ad campaign. “Just consider the working families paying much more for a new washing machine or the locker manufacturer that now must consider outsourcing U.S. jobs overseas.”

(Disclosure: Time Inc., TIME’s parent company, was acquired by Meredith Corp. in a deal partially financed by Koch Equity Development, a subsidiary of Koch Industries Inc.)