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U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., speaks at a policy summit hosted by the Americans for Prosperity-North Dakota on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at the Avalon Events Center in Fargo. David Samson / Forum News Service

US Rep. Cramer attends conservative policy summit focusing on tax reform

FARGO —— One of the nation's largest conservative organizations invited Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota to speak at a policy summit here Tuesday, Aug. 8, on ways to "unrig" the economy.

The North Dakota chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a political group funded by brothers David and Charles Koch with headquarters in Virginia, hosted the summit at Avalon Events Center.

Chrissy Harbin, the group's vice president of external affairs, sat on stage in the Roosevelt Boardroom beside Cramer to get his perspective on federal policies and to "talk about something as wonky as tax reform" at the grassroots level, she said.

"Changing Washington is not easy," Harbin said. "I think expectations were really high towards the end of last year [with] promises to drain the swamp, promises to fix the broken tax code, promises to repeal Obamacare. It's frankly much easier said than done."

Cramer said he has run into Harbin on occasion while working on Capitol Hill and that it was nice to have her in North Dakota for some "nerdy swamp talk" about tax reform with an audience of about 35 people.

Among the crowd were six North Dakota residents who are involved in progressive activist groups here. They wanted to listen to the congressman's take on taxes.

When asked by Harbin what his thoughts on taxes are, Cramer quipped, "I'm against them."

Americans for Prosperity has five "principles" as part of its tax reform agenda that Cramer assented to, including the need to simplify the tax code, streamline revenue collection and eliminate "handouts." Its principles also echo the idea of removing carbon taxes and policies that intend to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

"When President Trump signed the memo expediting the finishing of the Dakota Access Pipeline, in the matter of a couple months we saw drilling go up by 40 percent," Cramer said. "One small regulation was in the way of moving the product to market."

Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips met last week with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to discuss ways of getting a comprehensive tax reform plan on the president's desk by the end of the year.

To educate and mobilize citizens leading up to that point, the organization plans to host 50 similar summit events at the state level.