Most of you probably haven’t heard of the Export-Import Bank. It’s not like FirstBank or BB&T. It’s a major organ of the crony capitalism game. Politicians keep it afloat with our money so their campaign contributors can have their personal business deals sweetened — again, with our money — and return the favor with future PAC and campaign contributions. Now comes word that the US Chamber of Commerce — yeah, those “conservative” guys who endorsed Thom Tillis today — is trying to ensure that those meddlesome Tea Partiers don’t up-end this cash cow:
Big business was blindsided by the Tea Party two years ago and almost lost a fight to keep the U.S. Export-Import Bank alive.
Supporters are vowing not to let that happen this year, though they face many of the same opponents — including a congressman who now runs the committee considering the matter.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Aerospace Industries Association and Nuclear Energy Institute are stepping up their lobbying to reauthorize the bank, which helps foreign companies buy U.S.-made goods. The charter for the lender, which backed $38 billion in exports last year, expires Sept. 30.
“We’re going to be doing our damnedest to focus some minds” on Capitol Hill, Christopher Wenk, senior director for international policy at the U.S. Chamber, said in a phone interview. “We’re not going to let misinformation win the day this time around.”
The push coincides with the Export-Import Bank’s two-day annual conference, which begins tomorrow in Washington. It also sets the stage for what will probably be months of debate with ideological opponents, who deride the 80-year-old lender as an example of corporate welfare, and critics, including Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL), who say the bank’s practices benefit their foreign competitors.
This entity basically pays foreigners to BUY goods produced by American companies. Our congresswoman, Renee Ellmers, voted for this monstrosity the last go-around and carried the leadership’s water BIG TIME. Critics are revving up for a fight:
“It’s nothing more than a slush fund for crony capitalism,” Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, a Washington-based group that advocates for limited government, said in an interview. “We’re happy to work with anybody who wants to shut down the bank.”
The group may gain an edge this time from House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican and Ex-Im critic who has led the panel since January 2013. Any legislation to reauthorize the lender must go through his committee, and he wields the authority to stall the debate.
Hensarling, who is away on recess with the rest of the Congress until April 28, wasn’t available for an interview, according to committee spokesman David Popp. His office recently tweeted a link to an April 17 video, in which Hensarling described the bank as the “face of cronyism.”
The bank last year authorized a record 3,842 transactions valued at $27.3 billion, according to its annual report. Those authorizations supported $37.4 billion in U.S. exports, it said. While the number of transactions increased, the total value of authorizations fell about 24 percent from 2012.
About 70 percent of the 6,000 exporters aided in the past five years are small businesses, according to the bank website. The top beneficiaries were major manufacturers: Boeing Co. (BA), General Electric Co. (GE) and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT)
“I find it inconceivable that these companies would be in need of the government dole,” Hensarling said during a June hearing of the panel’s monetary policy and trade subcommittee.
Critics say the lender’s efforts can actually undermine U.S. companies. In 2012, a group of U.S. airlines led by Atlanta-based Delta said bank financing of wide-body Boeing jets for carriers including Air India Ltd. and Dubai’s Emirates Airline threatened American companies’ business. That criticism hasn’t waned.
This thing comes up for a reauthorization vote again at the end of September — well after most primary elections have been held. In North Carolina’s Second District, voters need to ask Renee Ellmers why our tax dollars need to be used to sweeten the pot for General Electric and Caterpillar’s international business deals.
We need to ask ALL of our leaders in DC WHY, in an era with record unemploment, and out-of-control federal debt and deficits, this travesty needs to continue to exist.