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Kochs unveil campaign to jolt stalled tax debate

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/18/2017 By STEVE PEOPLES
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The Koch Brothers' political network is preparing to spend millions of dollars to ensure its vision for tax reform isn't lost in the increasing chaos consuming President Donald Trump's administration.

The network's leading organizations, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, on Thursday released a set of general preferences for major changes to the tax code. While explicitly stating their opposition to new border-adjustment or value-added taxes, there were few specifics in a document that was designed to inject a new sense of urgency into the stalled tax debate.

"Now is the time. We've got to unite around these principles," network spokesman James Davis said. "The White House hopefully will see this as a jolt to support them in driving this forward."

Beyond Thursday's release, Davis said the network backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch is launching a multimillion-dollar campaign through the summer to ensure their conservative tax plan is not forgotten. The campaign will include digital ads and town hall meetings across the country, along with phone banks and direct mail.

The Koch push reflects broader concerns from the nation's business community that Trump's promise to overhaul the tax code may fall victim to his mounting political challenges. The stock market on Wednesday suffered its largest single-day loss of the Trump presidency. That was before the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate allegations that Trump's campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 election.

Late last month, Trump released a one-page proposal that included massive tax cuts for businesses and a bigger standard tax deduction for middle-income families, lower investment taxes for the wealthy and an end to the federal estate tax for the superrich. It's largely in line with the Koch network's preference, which calls for lower rates, fewer brackets and the elimination of "special loopholes" and deductions.

There were modest signs Wednesday that the Trump administration was trying to spark new momentum for its tax plan.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials met with Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee in what Democrats described afterward as an opening conversation in the tax debate.

Even under the best of political circumstances, tax reform is difficult. Congress hasn't overhauled the tax code in more than three decades.

"If we don't start making the case to the American people and showing them how this improves their lives now, it becomes increasingly more and more difficult, particularly as we move closer to the election," Davis said.

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