Despite losing a friend in House leadership and now his successor’s avowed lack of interest, the Export-Import Bank — which has been criticized for promoting corporate welfare — remains well-positioned to secure reauthorization this fall.
That’s the conclusion of the Sunlight Foundation, which analyzed the lobbying efforts of the bank’s corporate beneficiaries. In fact, it’s not really a close call.
Only one company on Sunlight’s list of 20 organizations “that have lobbied the most” on the subject of the Export-Import Bank since 2008 has been critical of the bank’s methods. That would be Delta Airlines, which is not too keen on the bank’s subsidizing of overseas outfits so that they can purchase Boeing planes more cheaply.
Critics in and out of Congress see the 80-year-old Export-Import Bank, which provides taxpayer-backed loans, loan guarantees, credit insurance and working capital to support U.S. export sales, as a bastion of corporate cronyism. They want to see its charter expire Sept. 30, rather than be renewed.
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Unlike Delta, which calls for lawmakers to enact “reforms” of the federal agency so that it supports manufacturers “without damaging the ability of U.S. airlines … to compete in the global marketplace,” opponents such as the coalition mounted by Americans for Prosperity say it’s time to pull the plug.
Conversely, Boeing stands out as Ex-Im’s most ardent supporter. Sunlight’s report notes:
Not surprisingly, the most active lobbying force in favor of the Ex-Im Bank is Boeing, which has always been the largest beneficiary of the bank’s loan guarantees (an estimated 45 percent of the bank’s activity helps Boeing). Boeing has filed 57 reports mentioning the bank, more than twice as many as Delta (27 reports). Boeing also spends more overall on lobbying than Delta. In 2013, Boeing spent $15.2 million on lobbying, while Delta spent $3million.
Sunlight acknowledges that the unexpected defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary in Virginia’s 7th District is widely viewed as a major setback for the bank. And Cantor’s incoming replacement as majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he will not support reauthorization of the bank.
In its analysis, however, Sunlight says the lobbying prowess of Ex-Im supporters should not be underestimated:
Certainly, opponents of the Ex-Im bank appear to be gaining a wider audience. But they are up against the lobbying muscle of companies and industries that have been successfully lobbying in the support of the bank for years, and also have millions of dollars in sales at stake. Which means that, barring a remarkable reversal, the Ex-Im Bank will almost certainly be re-authorized once again this year.
The agency’s critics see the bank’s expansion of taxpayer liabilities as reason enough for it to be denied reauthorization.
“The Export–Import Bank (Ex–Im) funnels billions of taxpayer dollars each year to overseas businesses for the purchase of American products,” Diane Katz, research fellow in regulatory policy for The Heritage Foundation, writes in a recent paper. She adds:
This subsidized financing is supposedly a win-win proposition for exporters and their customers abroad. But rare is a subsidy that does not produce disparity elsewhere. In the case of Ex–Im, the losers include domestic companies that are left to compete against foreign firms bankrolled by the U.S. government.
The bank and its supporters contend that the agency opens international business opportunities for U.S companies that otherwise would not be feasible. And according to the bank’s 2013 report, the bank’s actions benefited American companies and taxpayers.
In fiscal 2013, the bank “sent a record $1.057 billion to the U.S. Treasury in negative subsidy (or profit),” according to the report. It also said the bank “has a successful recovery rate for transactions that enter default (i.e., 50 cents on the dollar since 1992),” adding: “In the past three years, the bank recovered more money than it paid out in claims.”
Supporters also note Ex-Im received recognition for having higher lender underwriting standards than other export credit agencies that operate in foreign countries. Last year, it was named “Best Global Export Credit Agency” and the “Best ECA in the Americas” by Trade Finance Magazine.
In May, however, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released updated figures that show the bank will cost U.S. taxpayers $2 billion over the next decade. Ex-Im advocates object to CBO’s methodology, among them Linda Dempsey, vice president of international affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.