Koch Network to Start Ad Campaign Against Trump's Trade Tariffs

(Bloomberg) -- The political network backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch said Wednesday it would start running ads next week on national conservative talk radio programs as part of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to promote free trade and oppose President Donald Trump’s moves to impose tariffs on billions of dollars worth of imports.

The "six-figure" advertising campaign will start June 25 and will also include a television spot in the Washington market that urges lawmakers to reject tariffs, the network said. The ads emphasize the role trade plays in the American economy and argue that tariffs are antithetical to that dynamic. “To keep growing, we must keep trading,” the TV spot says. “Tariffs are not the answer."

The network, the most influential conservative entity outside the Republican Party, has repeatedly clashed with Trump on trade. The new campaign is being sponsored by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the hub organization for top Koch donors.

"Tariffs are taxes that make Americans poorer," James Davis, a Freedom Partners executive vice president, said in a statement. "They raise our cost of living and force higher expenses on our businesses."

With a trade war brewing after Trump’s proposed tariffs on products from China and duties on steel and aluminum imports, manufacturers and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have slammed his trade policies. They’ve warned that retaliation is likely and that tariffs amount to a tax on U.S. companies and consumers.

Branching Out

A group of almost 60 business associations is urging Congress to exert more oversight of Trump’s use of tariffs. Organizations including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, National Retail Federation and National Corn Growers Association sent a letter on Monday to the chairmen and top Democrat on both the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees calling for “a robust congressional response" to the Trump tariffs.

“We strongly believe that, in order to change the current path that the administration has chosen to take on trade, Congress must reassert itself and oversee our country’s trade policy, especially the use of unilateral tariffs,” Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which helped lead the effort, said in a statement.

“As is evidenced by the broad group of trade associations who signed this letter, every sector of the economy is feeling the effects of the administration’s current trade policy, which hurts far more workers and consumers than it could ever help,” Yerxa said.

The groups applauded Wednesday’s scheduled hearing by the Senate Finance Committee on Trump’s tariffs that is to feature Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and said Congress must reassert the balance between the legislative and executive branches on trade authority.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.