Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg has responded to conservative critics in Congress who argue that the 81-year-old institution is the epitome of "corporate welfare."
Less than three weeks before Congress votes on the reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank, Hochberg spoke at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Friday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.
On that day, The Washington Post reported a massive lobbying effort in the business community to try to save the bank and its power to underwrite loans for overseas business.
Hochberg insisted to Newsmax that he has not had any dealings with the well-heeled lobbying to save the Ex-Im Bank within the private sector. He also voiced his view that efforts by conservatives to scrap the institution he has headed since 2009 are actually a "gateway" to getting rid of other federal programs considered wasteful by the right.
In making this point, Hochberg asserted that the business of conservative billionaire Charles Koch, who has helped fund groups calling for scrapping the Ex-Im Bank, has in fact benefited from Ex-Im loans.
"Koch Industries has actually been a beneficiary of Ex-Im grants. They sometimes show up on our project list," he said.
Newsmax tried to reach a Koch Industries spokesperson for a response. But at press time, our calls had not been returned.
In response to USA Today's query as to how he felt about the Ex-Im Bank being a "big target" of many Republican officeholders as well as organizations backed by Charles Koch, Hochberg replied: "If you listen to what they say — and it's a small minority in Congress — a number of times it's 'we need to deal with the Ex-Im Bank because how can we address the other issues of government spending if we don't go after the Ex-Im Bank?'
"That's why they like to call us corporate welfare — because they can go after other welfare. That's the reason. I find it odd. If you listen, we've become a gateway to doing what they want."
Along with the National Association of Manufacturers and Boeing (the bank's biggest beneficiary) ramping up their lobbying operations for Ex-Im reauthorization, the Post noted that both former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt and Mississippi former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour were being paid six-figure retainers for the Ex-Im "rescue mission" in Congress before the June 30 reauthorization vote.
"Do you meet with these lobbyists to strategize?" Newsmax asked Hochberg.
"No, I don’t strategize with them," he told us. "I’ve known Dick Gephardt for a long time and I think we've had coffee or breakfast once in the last 12 months. I've got my job to do. [Lobbyists] are retained by a coalition of businesses, trade associations, the Chamber [of Commerce], NAM [National Association of Manufacturers], and others. They're really working independently."
The demonization of the Ex-Im Bank as a "poster boy" for wasteful federal spending by conservatives on the campaign trail, Hochberg told us, has "actually been a benefit — clear and simple.
"More small businesses know who we are, what we do, and how we actually can aid their businesses in selling overseas and supporting jobs. Actually, we do not have a better advertising or promotion campaign among small businesses that need us."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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