Of 16 members on the Export-Import Bank’s 2014 Advisory Committee, fully half were executives at companies or unions that directly benefitted from Ex-Im financing during their term.
Another five members represent companies or unions that received Ex-Im assistance shortly before they joined the board. (RELATED: Some Beneficiaries of Export-Import Bank Oppose Re-Authorization)
Amidst the ongoing debate in Congress over re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank, many of the bank’s opponents have accused it of engaging in “crony capitalism”, and for some, this revelation constitutes additional evidence for the charge. (RELATED: Is the Export-Import Bank Crony Capitalism)
Ex-Im’s defenders say such accusations are baseless, and stem from a misunderstanding of the Advisory Committee’s true purpose.
The Ex-Im Advisory Committee was created by Congress in 1983 to “advise the bank on its programs…and submit… its own comments to the Congress on the extent to which the Bank is meeting its mandate to provide competitive financing to expand United States exports.”
Moreover, the law states that, “members shall be broadly representative of environment, production, commerce, finance, agriculture, labor, services, State government, and the textile industry.” Supporters argue the fact that Advisory Committee members are associated with Ex-Im beneficiaries is a feature, rather than a failing, of the organization.
Critics counter that the absence of illegality does not necessarily mean the absence of impropriety. If anything, they contend, it shows that corporate welfare is institutionalized within Ex-Im. (RELATED: Conservatives Split on Export-Import Bank)
Barney Keller, communications director at Club for Growth, expressed disbelief at the idea that a committee composed of individuals with skin in the game could advise Ex-Im impartially. “The bank is a slush fund for corporate welfare and is awash in impropriety,” Keller told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Keller also pointed out that Ex-Im is not exactly a paragon of honest and efficient administration. “Just in the past few weeks,” he said, “one of its former employees was accused of taking bribes… and Ex-Im’s own Inspector General told lawmakers he is investigating 40 separate allegations of fraud at the bank.”
This is not the first time Ex-Im has been accused of having conflicts of interest within its Advisory Board. Last year, the Washington Free Beacon reported that former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson served simultaneously on both the Advisory Committee of Ex-Im and the International Advisory Board of Spanish green energy firm Abengoa. During Richardson’s dual tenure, Ex-Im provided Abengoa with roughly $185 million in loans.
A spokesman for Ex-Im responded at the time by claiming, “Richardson had no communication or role with anyone at the bank regarding [these transactions].” The spokesman also pointed out that most (about $150 million) of the loans were part of a package that was finalized just a few weeks after Richardson was appointed to the committee, and maintained that “the details of this transaction were finalized prior to Richardson joining the advisory board.”
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