Lobbying Powerhouses Duke It Out Over Ex-Im Reauthorization

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Peter Fricke Contributor
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Representatives of more than 600 manufacturers and businesses from 41 states descended on Capitol Hill Wednesday to encourage lawmakers to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

The lobbying effort, coordinated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Exporters for Ex-Im interest group, is intended to highlight the economic benefits that the bank provides, as well as dispel several “myths” advanced by its critics.

Ex-Im’s future has hung in the balance since last September, when supporters were barely able to craft a compromise extending its charter until June 30, at which point the bank will expire unless Congress acts. (RELATED: Is the Export-Import Bank Done?)

According to a list of prepared talking points obtained by the Washington Examiner, the activists are asking members of Congress to support a five-year extension of Ex-Im’s charter, claiming that the bank “supports … tens of thousands of … American jobs,” and that, “there are no good [private-sector] alternatives to Ex-Im.”

Supporters are hoping that legislators who are on the fence about the issue will be swayed after meeting with exporters from their own states who benefit from Ex-Im financing, but they face competition from opponents of the bank, who are conducting a counter-offensive.

Heritage Action, a conservative interest group that has been among the leading critics of Ex-Im, distributed literature of its own Wednesday, in the form of mock “boarding passes” meant to call attention to Ex-Im’s support of large, profitable companies like Boeing. (RELATED: Export-Import Bank Gives Billions to Boeing, Coal to Taxpayers)

“Like most government-run banks,” the handout claims, “the Export-Import Bank has become little more than a fund for corporate welfare, catering to a handful of massive companies like Boeing, GE, and Caterpillar,” who together account for “roughly 90 percent of the bank’s loan guarantees.”

Ex-Im’s defenders counter that the bank cannot properly be considered a form of corporate welfare, because it provides financing to any company that meets its criteria, and even charges them interest and fees for the service.

Daryl Bouwkamp, ‎Senior Director of International Business Development & Government Affairs for the Iowa-based Vermeer Corporation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that, “everyone has equal access to the resources of Ex-Im bank, so just because they would finance a given transaction says nothing about their ability to finance other transactions.”

Moreover, Ex-Im supporters argue that the emphasis detractors place on the bank’s largest beneficiaries is misleading, pointing out that nearly two-thirds of the companies that have taken advantage of Ex-Im financing since 2007 have been small businesses.

Bouwkamp said Ex-Im financing has been very helpful for Vermeer, because “international business supports about 800 of our jobs, so we like many others utilize Ex-Im Bank if and when we need it.”

Currently, for example, the company has an export deal pending in Australia that is worth about $10 million, “which is huge for us,” but Bouwkamp said that without Ex-Im support, the project would likely be awarded to a rival German firm, which could secure financing from European export credit agencies.

Anticipating that Ex-Im’s defenders would cite domestic job creation in defense of the bank, Heritage retorts that, “While the subsidies may favor some specific companies, empirical evidence suggests export subsidies don’t create jobs across the economy, and in some cases may even be a net drag on the economy.”

Besides, Heritage adds, “147 out of every 148 exporters in the country—and 182 out of every 183 small business exporters—operate without the bank.”

Bouwkamp likewise addressed that fact, but described it as a symptom of the conservative tendencies of most business owners, rather than an indication of the bank’s limited relevance, saying, “most of the people here are of a conservative political bent, and they believe Ex-Im enhances the private-sector.”

“None of us like to use it,” he elaborated, “but we do use it if it’s appropriate and if it’s something that the private sector is not comfortable with or cannot do.” (RELATED: Conservatives Split on Export-Import Bank)

Most exporters want Ex-Im “to continuously improve and have strong oversight,” Bouwkamp added, but said allowing the bank to expire “would be an abdication of the government’s responsibility to protect and enable the private sector.”

Heritage, conversely, argues that, “export subsidies are not vital to sustaining America’s growing export sector,” because for every business that they help, other businesses are placed at a competitive disadvantage, which is “the definition of the government picking winners and losers.”

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