Koch network launches effort to kill Republican border tax plan

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (Reuters) - 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.

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Life along Mexico's border with the United States
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Life along Mexico's border with the United States
IMPERIAL SAND DUNES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: A digger removes sand drifts from the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 28, 2016 in the Imperial Sand Dunes recreation center, California. Without daily removal of the sand, the dunes would cover the fence and undocumented immigrants and smugglers could simply walk over it. The border stretches almost 2,000 miles between Mexico and the United States. Border security and immigration issues have become major issues in the U.S. Presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: People meet loved ones through the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol opens the park on the American side in San Diego on weekends to meet through the fence with family and friends through the fence at Tijuana. The park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 24: Haitian refugees look over donated items at an immigrant center on September 24, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. In recent months a surge of Haitian refugees has arrived to Tijuana, seeking asylum at the border crossing into the United States. The center, called the Desayunador Salesiano Padre Chava, serves breakfast to more than 1,000 immigrants daily, many of them deportees from the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
IMPERIAL SAND DUNES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: A digger removes sand drifts along the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 28, 2016 in the Imperial Sand Dunes recreation center, California. Without daily removal of the sand, the dunes would cover the fence and undocumented immigrants and smugglers could simply walk over it. The border stretches almost 2,000 miles between Mexico and the United States. Border security and immigration issues have become major issues in the U.S. Presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: People enjoy a late afternoon near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Friendship Park, located on the border between the two countries is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 24: Immigrants, many of them deportees from the United States, eat breakfast at a soup kitchen on September 24, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The center, called the Desayunador Salesiano Padre Chava, is run by a Catholic order of priests and feeds more than than 1,000 immigrants each morning. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 24: People stand in line to cross legally into the United States from Mexico on September 24, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Securing the border and controlling illegal immigration have become key issues in the U.S. Presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: A couple holds hands while meeting loved ones through the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol opens the park on the American side in San Diego on weekends to meet through the fence with family and friends through the fence at Tijuana. The park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: People enjoy a late afternoon near the U.S.-Mexico border fence which ends in the Pacific Ocean on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Friendship Park, located on the border between the two countries is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Mexicans enjoy a late afternoon near the U.S.-Mexico border fence which ends in the Pacific Ocean on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Friendship Park, located on the border between the two countries is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: A child plays in the Pacific surf near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The nearby Friendship Park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Immigrant activists pray at the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol opens the park on the American side in San Diego on weekends to meet through the fence with family and friends through the fence at Tijuana. The park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Maria Rodriguez Torres, 70, embraces a grandchild after seeing her other grandchildren for the first time through the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. She had traveled with family members from Mexico City to see her grandchildren through the fence at 'Friendship Park.' The U.S. Border Patrol opens the park on the American side on weekends to meet through the fence with family and friends through the fence at Tijuana. The park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
JACAMBA HOT SPRINGS, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Residents line up to receive free food at mobile food pantry near the U.S.-Mexico border on September 26, 2016 in Jacamba Hot Springs, California. The Feeding America truck delivers to the border town's needy residents twice a month. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
JACAMBA HOT SPRINGS, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle stands guard along the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 26, 2016 in Jacamba Hot Springs, California. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
JACAMBA HOT SPRINGS, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 26: A cardboard cutout of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is on display at a debate-watching party for supporters of Hillary Clinton at the Yum Yum Chinese restaurant near the U.S.-Mexico border on September 26, 2016 in Calexico, California. People across the country tuned in as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton participated in their first debate. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
HOLTVILLE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Mexican farm workers hoe a cabbage field on September 27, 2016 Holtville, California. Thousands of Mexican seasonal workers legally cross the border daily from Mexicali, Mexico to work the fields of Imperial Valley, California, some of the most productive farmland in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
HOLTVILLE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: A A Mexican farm worker plows a U.S. farm on September 27, 2016 in Holtville, California. Thousands of Mexican seasonal workers legally cross the border daily from Mexicali, Mexico to work the fields of Imperial Valley, California, some of the most productive farmland in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
HOLTVILLE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: A marker stands over an immigrant's grave on September 27, 2016 in Holtville, California. Hundreds of immigrants, many who died while crossing the desert from Mexico into the United States, are buried in a pauper's cemetery. Many of the grave markers simply read 'John Doe.' (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: A man looks through the U.S.-Mexico border fence into the United States on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Friendship Park on the border is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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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."

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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.

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Inside President Trump's first week
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Inside President Trump's first week
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks briefly to reporters as he arrives aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (C), flanked by Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly (R), takes the stage to deliver remarks at Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, U.S. January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump walks through the Colonnade to the Oval Office after returning to the White House in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The Marine One helicopter transporting U.S. President Donald Trump is seen as it departs from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., for a trip to Philadelphia, January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to board Air Force One for travel to Philadelphia from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives aboard Air Force One at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives aboard Air Force One at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
An attendee uses her iPhone to record U.S. President Donald J. Trump speaking during the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
U.S. President Donald Trump signs autographs for onlookers as he arrives aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence return to the White House after a visit to Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, U.S., January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump signs the executive order for the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington January 23, 2017. With Trump (L-R) are Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and head of the White House Trade Council Peter Navarro. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway (2nd R) embraces Communications Director Sean Spicer as he joins a roundtable discussion between U.S. President Donald Trump and labor leaders, after Spicer's first press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia U.S. January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump sings while accompanied by his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen (R) during a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral the morning after his inauguration, in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
US President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family, rear, wife Melania Trump, son Barron Trump, as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, at the Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2017. REUTERS/J. Scott Applewhite/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with wife Melania and son Barron during the Inaugural Parade in Washington, January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in earlier as the 45th President of the United States. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump arrives at inauguration ceremonies swearing him in as president on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
The White House is seen the day after U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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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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