Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ted Cruz long outspoken against Export Import Bank, detailed July 2014 USA Today Editorial against it. Recently fired Ex-Im Bank official took the 5th in connection with fraud and kickbacks there

Ted Cruz wrote USA Today Editorial against Export-Import Bank a year ago, July 30, 2014. Also in 2014, a recently dismissed Ex-Im official took the Fifth in a court case about fraud at the Bank.

7/30/2014, "Ted Cruz: Obama backs corporate welfare," USA Today, Op-ed by Sen. Ted Cruz

"The Export-Import Bank is corrupt crony-capitalist fiasco. Republicans should kill it."

"To most Americans, the words "Export-Import Bank" don't mean very much. The DC insiders, cozy with international corporate interests putting taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, want to keep it that way, too.

The Export-Import Bank is big businesses' big-government bank backed by U.S. taxpayers. It sends huge amounts of assistance to foreign corporations, buyers, and companies that are hostile to our economic and security interests, but can afford armies of lobbyists to access easy financing backed by American taxpayers.

Contrary to the values that keep America strong, safe and free, the Export-Import Bank has facilitated lending to governments in Congo and Sudan, countries with horrific human rights records. It has financed Chinese power plants and backed Russian billionaires buying luxury planes. 

And, it has provided lots and lots of financing to oil companies in Russia, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that compete directly with America's energy companies.

Americans shouldn't be forced to finance those who are actively working against them, as a basic matter of prudence. The Export-Import Bank operates outside of commonsense.

There's nothing inherently wrong with big business — and President Obama is wrong to constantly demagogue them — but they don't need special handouts from government. Especially when the government favors hurt other U.S. businesses and jeopardize American jobs.

For example, last year the Export-Import Bank was rebuked by a federal court for failing to fully consider that the support it sent to a state-owned Indian airline was undercutting Delta, putting up to 7,500 American jobs at risk.

Similarly in 2013, Democrat Senators Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken, and Carl Levin sent a letter of concern to the Export-Import Bank's Chairman, noting that the Bank's subsidy of earth-moving equipment for an Australian mining company would hurt their American competitors in Michigan and Minnesota, ultimately leading to an estimated loss of over $1 billion in domestic sales of iron ore.

The Export-Import Bank's supporters like to point to the small business activity it assists, but dollar for dollar the bulk of the bank's business is big.

A 2011 paper by Cato Scholar Sallie James pointed out that in FY 2010 the top ten beneficiaries of Bank loans and guarantees--those with combined revenues of over $382 billion--received over 92% of those bank services.

Besides, the business practices at the Export-Import Bank are markedly irresponsible.

A 2012 report by the Bank's own Inspector General found that it lacks a systematic approach to managing its risk, with an alarming concentration of its risks in only a few industries, particularly the airline industry. According to the Bank'sown annual reports, last year it could justify less than a third of its activity as dedicated to countering foreign competition, the core of the Bank's mission, and it could not account for its second-largest category of financial assistance, listing it as "unknown."

What kind of bank doesn't understand its risks, doesn't follow its mission, and doesn't know where its money is going?

This makes it unsurprising that there have been at least 74 cases of documented fraud at the Export-Import Bank since 2009. The Wall Street Journal reported in June that the bank "has suspended or removed four officials in recent months amid investigations into allegations of gifts and kickbacks, as well as attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies."

Ninety-eight percent of all U.S. exports are made without Export-Import financing. The government should not keep a special bank open for other the 2%, especially when the private sector could meet the need.

Even though President Obama once said on the campaign trail in 2008 that the Export-Import Bank is "little more than a corporate welfare fund," Democrats in Washington have shown no serious willingness to abolish it.

In fact, President Obama is requesting a $20 billion increase in the bank's lending authority — from $140 billion in 2014 to $160 billion by 2018.

We should remember how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Export-Import Bank — through executive fiat in 1934. If President Obama wanted to create a new Export-Import Bank today by executive order, most Republicans could be counted on to oppose it. They shouldn't reauthorize it today. The Export-Import Bank wasn't a good idea in 1934, and it isn't a good idea in 2014, either.

The debate over keeping it open will be a telling one.

Those siding with foreign corporations, lobbyists and crony politicians will be on one side. Those fighting for the values and interests of American workers will be on the other.

Ted Cruz is a Republican senator from Texas."



July 13, 2015, The Hill uses first three paragraphs to sell idea that Ted Cruz is "diving" into Ex-Im issue because he's "looking to" to raise his presidential poll #s. Waits til 5th paragraph to mention in passing that a year ago USA Today published a Cruz editorial against Ex-Im Bank. Per The Hill, an op-ed "attack" against the Bank:

7/13/15, "Cruz dives into Ex-Im fight," The Hill, Kevin Cirelli

"Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is putting himself front and center in the fight over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, as the presidential hopeful looks to raise his profile in the crowded 2016 field.

Cruz, who has frequently worked with House conservatives and has been a thorn in the side of GOP leaders in the lower chamber, is holding a press conference on Wednesday to call on House and Senate GOP leaders not to tie Ex-Im’s reauthorization to a highway spending bill.

The Republican presidential candidate has thus far failed to gain traction in the polls. In taking on Ex-Im, he is looking to become a leading voice on an issue that has incited many on the GOP’s conservative wing.

The bank, which helps finance U.S. companies’ projects in foreign markets, has come under fire from groups including Freedom Partners and Heritage Action, who say it doles out corporate welfare for favored companies.

“The Export-Import Bank operates outside of common sense,” Cruz wrote in a July 2014 USA Today op-ed attack the bank.

Bank critics hope Cruz will exert pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to resist efforts to renew the 81-year-old bank’s charter following its expiration at the end of last month.

Veronique de Rugy, a scholar at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, which has been critical of Ex-Im, said Cruz will be “an even more important player against Ex-Im in the next few weeks as many in the Senate will try to attach an Ex-Im reauthorization to the highway bill.”

McConnell told The Associated Press last month that Ex-Im supporters “have the votes” to pass legislation and that he’d “give them the opportunity” on the Senate floor despite his personal opposition to it.

Just how far Cruz will go to prevent that from happening remains unclear.

“All options remain on the table for ensuring that the Export-Import Bank continues to wind down,” said Cruz spokesman Phil Novack."...

Six more articles against Export Import Bank:


7/29/2014, "Export-Import Bank Goes Under the Microscope for Allegations of Fraud, Corruption," Daily Signal, Melissa Quinn

"A review of government documents conducted by The Heritage Foundation found there have been more than 74 cases since 2009 in which bank officials were forced to stop transactions, cancel policies or otherwise secure funds at risk on the basis of investigations by the Office of Inspector General.

In addition, dozens of fraud cases involving those benefiting from Ex-Im financing have been referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution. Katz pointed to several examples:

"[T]he bank approved 96 loan transactions in a two-year period for Gangland, USA, which purported to export electronics from Miami to South America. According to prosecutors, company owner Jose L. Quijano received more than $3.6 million in fraudulent loans from the bank.

Similarly, the bank approved 18 loans involving $13.6 million to Leopoldo Parra, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to prosecutors, Parra and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained the loan proceeds and used them for personal gain.""...


6/23/14, "Officials at Ex-Im Bank face investigations, " Wall St. Journal, Damian Palette

"Agency Is at Crossroads as Two Top House Republicans Oppose Its Reauthorization"
"The U.S. Export-Import Bank has suspended or removed four officials in recent months amid investigations into allegations of gifts and kickbacks, as well as attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies, several people familiar with the matter said.

One employee, Johnny Gutierrez, an official in the short-term trade finance division, allegedly accepted cash payments in exchange for trying to help a Florida company obtain U.S. government financing to export construction equipment".... (subscription)

8/12/14, "Export-Import Bank Awash in Taxpayer Money and Corruption," The Hill, David Williams

"The Export-Import Bank of the United States has been having a rough few weeks and it doesn’t look like things will get any easier.  In late July, the bank scrambled to halt their dealings with Russian companies, a week after the awkward news that the Obama administration had sanctioned some of the Bank’s previous Russian “customers” with close ties to Vladimir Putin

Around the same time, the bank’s president, Fred Hochberg, was hauled before Congress to address concerns about rampant fraud at his institution after three employees were dismissed following allegations of corruption Also called to testify was Johnny Gutierrez, himself one of the recently-dismissed bank officials. Gutierrez pled the Fifth Amendment and Hochberg’s testimony was less than illuminating. In addition, a recent report in The Daily Caller found several instances of conflicts of interest among members of the bank’s own advisory committee.

These are difficult charges for the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank to deal with as it approaches a crucial date –September 30.  On that date the charter for this government credit agency will expire, and for the first time in its eighty-year history, the Bank is facing the threat of extinction. Ex-Im’s charter must be renewed by Congress and a growing number of lawmakers – including the new House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) – are expressing skepticism about reauthorizing it.

Their skepticism is well-placed.  In fact, concerns about the bank’s necessity were nicely summed up by an Illinois senator back in 2008, who called Ex-Im “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.

That was Sen. Barack Obama on the campaign trail, and though, as president, he appears to have changed his tune, the “corporate welfare” charge still stands.  Some 60 percent of the bank’s financing goes to only ten large corporations. Chief among the largest corporations benefitting from the taxpayer-backed Ex-Im Bank is Boeing, which earned nearly $90 billion in revenues last year, while Ex-Im contributed nearly $8 billion in taxpayer-backed financing to help sell their jets to foreign airlines.  Unnecessary handouts such as this signal that “corporate welfare” is in desperate need of reform.

The most recent allegations against the bank, however, deal less with their crony-capitalistic policies than with the individuals who enact these policies. In June, it was reported that the bank had dismissed three officials and placed a fourth on leave in response to accusations of impropriety. Few details have been disclosed and only one of the employees has been named – Gutierrez, who appeared before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee and refused to answer any questions. Gutierrez lost his position at the Bank after it was revealed that he took money from a Florida company which was angling for Ex-Im funding.

The hearing did yield some further interesting tidbits, all damaging to the Export-Import Bank. Hochberg, the bank’s president, stated that the accusations against Gutierrez and his three colleagues stem from three different incidents.  Moreover, the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) noted that the bank’s own inspector general was looking into at least 40 potential fraud cases.

Even the makeup of the bank’s own advisory committee raises questions. The Daily Caller found that “fully half” of the committee members headed entities “that directly benefitted from Ex-Im financing during their term.”  Furthermore, five additional members saw Ex-Im funding reach their organizations before joining the committee. And the questions for the advisory committee start right at the top. It’s probably not a coincidence that the current chair is former Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington State – the home of Boeing and, according to one study, recipient of 43.6 percent of Ex-Im funding, far and away the most of any state.

The Export-Import Bank is engaging in taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, and allegations of fraud are cropping up among their staff and advisory board. This must be stopped. Reforms may be possible, but a clean break is most likely necessary."

"Williams is the president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a conservative advocacy organization."


4/22/2015, "Former Loan Officer at Export-Import Bank Pleads Guilty to Accepting More Than $78,000 in Bribes," fbi.gov

"A former loan officer at the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) pleaded guilty in federal court today for accepting more than $78,000 in bribes in return for recommending the approval of unqualified loan applications to the bank, among other misconduct.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Inspector General Michael T. McCarthy of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Johnny Gutierrez, 50, of Stafford, Virginia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of the District of Columbia to one count of bribery of a public official. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 20, 2015.

“Gutierrez risked both taxpayer dollars and the integrity of the Ex-Im Bank for his personal financial gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Those charged with serving the public will be held accountable when they seek personal enrichment at the public’s expense.”

“Gutierrez betrayed the trust and confidence of the hardworking Ex-Im Bank employees and the U.S. taxpayers,” said Acting Inspector General McCarthy. “The Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively and diligently investigate all allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse related to Ex-Im Bank programs.”

“In his role as a loan officer, Gutierrez betrayed the trust that was placed in him by fellow citizens and took bribes in exchange for providing favorable action on loan applicants,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “The FBI, with our partners, will continue to investigate and expose fraudulent schemes that tarnish the good and ethical work of the U.S. government.”

According to his plea agreement, Gutierrez was a loan officer for the Ex-Im Bank based in Washington, D.C. The Ex-Im Bank is the federal agency responsible for promoting the export of U.S. goods to foreign countries through the guarantee of domestic loans to foreign buyers. As an Ex-Im Bank loan officer, Gutierrez was responsible for conducting credit underwriting reviews for companies and lenders submitting financing applications to the Ex-Im Bank.

As part of his guilty plea, Gutierrez admitted that on 19 separate occasions between June 2006 and December 2013, he accepted bribes totaling more than $78,000 in return for recommending the approval of unqualified loan applications and improperly expediting other applications.

Specifically, Gutierrez admitted that he intentionally ignored the fact that one company had previously defaulted in 10 previous transactions guaranteed by the bank, causing the Ex-Im Bank to lose almost $20 million. Despite these defaults, Gutierrez accepted bribes to continue to recommend the approval of the company’s loan applications. Additionally, Gutierrez admitted that he accepted bribes from a financing broker to expedite applications submitted by the broker, and that he privately assisted the broker to improve its applications before submission to the bank. In exchange, Gutierrez was to receive half of the broker’s profit on the transactions financed by the bank. Further, Gutierrez disclosed to the broker inside information about financing applications submitted to the Ex-Im Bank, so that the broker could solicit the applicants as clients.

The case was investigated by the Inspector General of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the FBI, with significant assistance provided by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Patrick M. Donley and Trial Attorney William H. Bowne of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section."


4/28/15, "Huizenga: Many reasons to be wary of the Ex-Im Bank," Detroit News, US Rep. Bill Huizenga

"Originally created as part of FDR's New Deal, the Export-Import Bank is a federal government agency designed to facilitate the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets by providing working capital guarantees, export credit insurance, loan guarantees, and direct loans. As time has passed, the bank's charter has grown from four pages at its foundation to more than 150 today and with that expansion, we have seen the bank expand its portfolio to a staggering $140 billion.

It's also important to note that from 1982-95 the Export Import Bank operated at a loss every year. In 1987, the Ex-Im's chairman was granted a $3 billion bailout from taxpayers by the U.S. Treasury after many years of running significant losses and this is when the bank's portfolio was essentially a third of the size it is today. Additionally, from 1992-1996, the bank received multiple bailouts totaling nearly $10 billion.

With our nation's debt over $18 trillion, do we really want to have the government play banker?

The Ex-Im Bank doesn't just have a tattered record with taxpayers; it also has problems with accountability. In 2012, Congress reauthorized Ex-Im, while also mandating several modest reform provisions that shared broad, bipartisan support. These reform provisions required the Ex-Im Bank to submit a business plan to Congress as well as respond to a review of the Ex-Im Bank's risk management practices conducted by the Government Accountability Office. The reauthorization also required the Ex-Im Bank to become more transparent and accountable by categorizing each loan and long-term guarantee, classifying them as necessary either (1) to assume risk the private sector would not undertake, (2) overcome limits in private finance, or (3) meet competition from foreign export credit agencies. The bank has failed to execute the majority of these reforms to an acceptable level.

Unfortunately, the bank also has an unsavory track involving corruption, bribery, and fraud. Perhaps the most infamous example of illegal behavior is that of former Congressman William Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana, who was raided by the FBI, convicted, and sent to prison for bribery, racketeering, and money laundering. You may remember him better as the congressman who stuffed his freezer with $90,000 in cold hard cash. Jefferson was working with a then-Ex-Im employee as well as an Ex-Im board member to broker a deal between two Nigerian companies seeking financial support from the Ex-Im Bank.

Last year, Ex-Im removed four more employees for accepting gifts and kickbacks from companies seeking export financing. One of those former employees was indicted on April 14 for taking bribes numerous times between 2006 and 2013. The problems don't end there. During a congressional hearing on April 15, the acting inspector general of the Export-Import Bank announced that there are at least 31 open investigations, with the potential for even more indictments.

The more that is unearthed about the Export-Import Bank, the more concerned I become. While the goal and objective of the bank might be admirable, the current state of the bank is abhorrent at best. A clean reauthorization of the bank does not provide taxpayers with the accountability that is expected from my constituents in Michigan or the overwhelming majority of citizens around the nation.

The truth is out there about Ex-Im. My question, is does Washington actually want to find it?"
Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, represents Michigan's 2nd District."



4/30/15,  "The Bank to Nowhere," WSJ, K. Strassel

"A campaign against the crony Export-Import bank is picking up steam."
"In a second joint Financial Services-Oversight hearing Thursday, the focus turned to the bank’s cronyism--particularly its failed green cronyism. Ex-Im guaranteed a $10.3 million loan to finance the overseas sale of products made by the infamous Solyndra. It gave $9.2 million to finance the export of solar panels from Abound Solar, which also went bankrupt. It seems no coincidence that both Solyndra and Abound were politically connected firms that also got huge loan guarantees from the Energy Department. 

Australia’s billionaire mining heiress Gina Rinehart snagged a $694 million Ex-Im loan for an iron ore project in Western Australia. Ex-Im has provided near record-breaking loans to subsidize a firm co-owned by Saudi Aramco—the world’s largest oil company. It provided millions to one-time Washington energy darling Enron. There is a reason for these deals, and for why more than 60% of Ex-Im’s money in 2013 benefited just 10 rich companies—it’s called politics. 

Outside Congress, the grass roots are rallying constituents. Some 50 conservative groups, organized by Americans for Prosperity, sent a letter to Congress last week demanding the bank die. Their leaders have been calling up pro-Ex-Im Republicans, re-educating them on bank myths, including the whoppers that it helps small businesses and doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. And they’ve been pointing out the extraordinary political benefit of Republicans’ finally getting on the right side of capitalism, in contrast to such supposed populist crusaders as Elizabeth Warren, who supports the bank. 

Heritage Action’s growing list of influential members who oppose reauthorization is proof reformers are making progress. It now includes eight House committee chairman (the likes of Paul Ryan, Tom Price and Fred Upton), as well as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise. The Club for Growth is running ads in GOP districts noting that reauthorization is now opposed by pretty much the entire GOP presidential field: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul.

Yet the Chamber of Commerce and other Ex-Im supporters are lobbying hard, particularly Mr. Boehnerand with some apparent success. In a press conference Thursday the speaker said he’d support any plan Mr. Hensarling crafted to “reform” or “wind down” the bank; he worried that there are “thousands of jobs on the line.” 

But letting the charter expire by necessity involves an orderly wind down, since it would take years for the bank to close out loans. (Which also means jobs don’t go poof.) The real question is whether Mr. Boehner will take the extraordinary step of undercutting his own committee chairman to put a reauthorization on the floor.

Reformers also need to spread this campaign to the Senate. It’s no good if the House kills Ex-Im, only for crony GOP senators to attach reauthorization to a “must-pass” bill (highway funds?). Utah Sen. Mike Lee had Mr. Hensarling address 35 senators Wednesday at the Senate Republican Steering Committee. That’s a start.

Not so long ago, Republican porksters had all manner of (bogus) arguments for why they could not, should not and would not ever relinquish earmarks. Yet they did, and the world not only didn’t end, it’s a better place. They might remember that, and just say goodbye to the Bank to Nowhere."
Write to kim@wsj.com


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