Billionaire Koch brothers’ political network will spend millions to oppose Trump’s tariffs – the group’s biggest split with the president so far

The Koch brothers’ network is denouncing President Trump’s tariffs on the EU, Canada and Mexico

The political network backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch on Monday unveiled a multiyear, multimillion-dollar campaign opposing the tariffs implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration. Last week’s decision by the Trump’s administration to place tariffs on imported steel and aluminium from key U.S. allies the European Union, Canada and Mexico apparently was the tipping point for the influential Koch network, which typically supports Republicans and conservative causes. The group is now moving ahead with a pro-free trade campaign that will include media buys, activist education, grass-roots mobilization, lobbying and policy analysis. Koch network groups Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity and the Libre Initiative made it clear in an announcement Monday that they are opposed to Trump’s tariffs and that their media and PR blitz is determined to show the benefits of open trade policies. “This campaign makes a clear statement: Trade is a major priority for our network,” James Davis, executive vice president of Freedom Partners, said in a statement. “We will work aggressively to educate policymakers and others about the facts. Trade lifts people out of poverty and improves lives. It is critical to America’s future prosperity and our consumers, workers and companies. Tariffs and other trade barriers make us poorer. They raise prices for those who can least afford it.” While Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips praised the administration for other economic policies, he did not hold back in denouncing the tariffs. “The Trump administration has taken some incredibly positive steps for the American economy, but tariffs will undercut that progress and needlessly hamstring our full economic potential. There are better ways to negotiate trade deals than by punishing American consumers and businesses with higher costs,” Phillips said. Daniel Garza, president of the Libre Initiative, argued that tariffs would hurt those who are part of the Hispanic community and, in particular, low-income workers. “Elected officials and policy leaders need to recognize that free and open trade policies make American workers and families more prosperous,” Garza said. “The taxes and trade barriers imposed by our government on U.S. consumers raise their cost of living and impose unnecessary costs on American firms in competition with others based abroad.” The Koch network’s new campaign could become a defining moment between the administration and the powerful Koch-backed groups. “Anything that threatens an incumbent, including a campaign like this, is something Republicans will look to, especially when it comes to money because politics is about money and they will bow to the dollar,” political strategist Hank Sheinkopf said in an interview. “Who are they more afraid of? The Koch brothers and their millions of dollars tossed at them or Donald Trump? An unemployed politician doesn’t know what to do with himself when he’s out of politics,” he added.