Big business has been pushing hard for Ex-Im Bank reauthorization after its charter expired on June 30 for the first time in more than 81 years of existence. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Boeing, GE, Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers spent a combined $46.9 million on lobbying in the period between April 1 and June 30.
Now, they may have found an ally in the man who just recently assumed control of the Senate on the promise to end corporate welfare, among other conservative agenda items.
A congressional source told PPD that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kty., might allow one and only one amendment to the highway bill, the amendment to fund the Export-Import Bank. Further, they claim he will move to block all conservative amendments, including ending the ObamaCare exemption for Congress, defunding sanctuary cities, defunding Planned Parenthood, and stopping IRS targeting of conservative donors.
The Club for Growth, a pro-economic freedom group at the forefront of the move to defund Ex-Im, had urged all House members to vote “NO” on the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, which provides a short-term patch to the Highway Trust Fund.
“This bill includes no pro-growth reforms and is financed with budget gimmicks — not real spending cuts that reduce the size of government. It’s well known that this bill could eventually become the vehicle to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank,” said Andrew Roth, VP of Government Affairs at The Club for Growth. “Members committed to limited government should instead support the Transportation Empowerment Act (HR 2716), which returns most infrastructure spending decisions back to the states. Members should also strongly oppose any efforts to attach Ex-Im Bank to this bill.”
McConnell’s office rejected the claim, stating they intend to have an open amendment process. We’ll soon find out who is telling the truth, but conservatives are furious at the prospect the majority leader will cut their long-sought victory against the “corporate slush fund” short. The Club for Growth, Heritage Action, the Madison Project and Senate Conservatives Fund all kicked up their efforts to stop reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank following the Republicans’ historic 2014 election victory.
Late last year, allies in the Chamber of Commerce, K Street and on Wall Street rallied to ensure conservatives in Congress didn’t slam the revolving door that has become the Ex-Im Bank shut. However, despite the Club’s repeated warnings that the bank was a “slush fund for corporate welfare,” the extent of the bank’s criminal activity is just now becoming public.
Former Ex-Im Bank loan officer Johnny Gutierrez was charged with bribery in April for accepting cash bribes 19 different times during a period stemming from 2006 to 2013. Further, recent testimony from Mark Thorum, the assistant inspector general for inspections and evaluations at the Ex-Im Bank, and Kimberly Gianopoulos, the director of international affairs and trade at the Government Accountability Office, revealed 31 instances of alleged fraud by employees at the bank are currently under investigation.
The Export-Import Bank, which was established in 1934 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, supposedly exists to “facilitate exports and imports and the exchange of commodities between the United States and other Nations.” Proponents of the Ex-Im Bank argue that the loans, which are funded by money borrowed from the U.S. Treasury, are necessary to gain a competitive advantage in the global economy.
However, as PPD has repeated investigated and reported, the Ex-Im Bank perpetuates corporate welfare, corruption and crime at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. Last summer, big business Democrats led by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is widely expected to take over for the soon-to-be retired Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, began kicking up lobbying and legislative efforts to save their crony cash cow. This year, big business spent more than ever to protect their interests, which are outlined below.
In 2013, Boeing received a whopping 30.3 percent of the share doled out by Ex-Im. During the second quarter of 2015, Boeing nearly tripled its spending on lobbying efforts from the previous quarter. Here’s a list of the top 10 spenders, according to Politico Influence (Ex-Im supporters in bold):
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $17.9 million
- American Medical Association, $12.4 million
- Boeing Co., $9.3 million
- General Electric Co., $8.5 million
- National Association of Realtors, $8.2 million
- Business Roundtable, $6.4 million
- U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, $5.1 million
- National Association of Manufacturers, $4.8 million
- PhRMA, $4.8 million
- American Hospital Association, $4.7 million
The list, unsurprisingly, is filled with the usual K-Street to Wall Street Ex-Im suspects, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce remained at the top of the list. The Chamber increased its spending by more than $4 million from the first quarter, when it spent $13.8 million. The Chamber continues to run TV ads in support of the bank, and continues to use fear tactics to make unsupported claims. A video posted on its website claims that the bank “supported 1.3 million American jobs over the past six years.” The claim simply does not hold up to scrutiny.
Looking at export-related jobs, as you can see from the graph above, it’s just preposterous to claim the Ex-Im Bank plays the big role the Chamber and other supporters claim. It’s worth noting that this chart looks at the “seen” jobs. As CATO economist and PPD contributor Dan Mitchell explained, if you count the “unseen” jobs destroyed by subsidies and intervention, the overall impact would be very negative.
Again, we will soon find out whether the majority leader is telling the truth, but Senate Conservatives President Ken Cuccinelli said the move would prove that “protecting corporate cronies is apparently more important to Senator McConnell than protecting the lives of innocent unborn children,” which he called “a complete betrayal” to Republican voters.
“McConnell will not allow conservatives to offer an amendment that prevents taxpayer money from funding Planned Parenthood, which was recently caught on video trying to sell the organs of aborted babies,” said Senate Conservatives Fund President Ken Cuccinelli. “If the Senate’s liberals get to bring the Ex-Im Bank back to life, Senate conservatives should be allowed to defund Planned Parenthood. They should also get votes to repeal ObamaCare, stop executive amnesty, force Iran to recognize Israel, and permanently ban Internet taxes.”