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Export-Import Bank fan Kay Hagan claims Thom Tillis defends corporate welfare

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Opinion,Timothy P. Carney,Columnists,2014 Elections,Campaigns,North Carolina,Kay Hagan,Corporate Welfare,Thom Tillis,Export Import Bank

Give the lady points for boldness: Sen. Kay Hagan is blasting her Republican opponent for “sid[ing] with the special interests” because he opposes a corporate welfare agency that gives most of its subsidies to Hagan's campaign contributors.

Hagan, D-N.C., is in a tough reelection battle with Thom Tillis, speaker of the state's House of Representatives. In 2012, Hagan voted to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a federal agency that subsidizes foreign companies and governments buying U.S. goods.

Ex-Im's nickname is 'Boeing's Bank'...Boeing's PAC has donated at least $5,500 to Hagan.

Ex-Im’s charter expires this fall, and Hagan loudly supports renewal again. Tillis, meanwhile, would eliminate Ex-Im, which is corporate welfare that harms the broader economy at the expense of a few exporters.

As a state legislative leader who pushed an aggressive legislative agenda in Raleigh, Tillis has a reputation for straddling the line between the GOP establishment and Tea Party conservatives. Opposing Ex-Im puts Tillis at odds with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and most of the business lobby, but it aligns him with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling.

With Tillis opposing corporate welfare and Hagan defending it, you might think this would undermine the Democrats’ line of attack on the Republican. From the beginning of the campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has blasted Tillis as “Poster Boy For Raleigh Special Interests.” They have knocked him for his closeness to “big business” and for being too cozy with “lobbyists for corporations.”

How does Hagan’s campaign deal with the facts that she supports taxpayer-funded backstops for big exporters, foreign companies and the banks that finance them? By pretending the anti-subsidy position is the special-interest position.

Hagan's campaign spokesman said: “Opposing reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank shows yet again that Thom Tillis will choose the special interests and outside billionaires over commonsense, bipartisan ideas that are important for North Carolina's economy.”

The Export-Import Bank subsidizes two percent of U.S. exports, with a majority of its money supporting the country’s five largest exporters. And these beneficiaries are disproportionately Kay Hagan donors — and the companies in which Hagan is invested.

No one suggests corruption in the confluence between Hagan’s finances (personal and campaign) and the subsidies she supports. But you’d think she would hesitate to bring up the special interests in the Ex-Im debate.

Ex-Im's nickname is “Boeing's Bank.” Boeing is by far Ex-Im's biggest beneficiary. Boeing's exports last year received 82 percent of Ex-Im's loan guarantees. Boeing's PAC has donated at least $5,500 to Hagan, according to FEC filings.

Honeywell, General Electric, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are other Ex-Im beneficiaries. They are also PAC donors to Hagan.

Banks also profit from Ex-Im. Most Ex-Im financing takes the form of taxpayer guarantees for private banks’ loans. For instance, if Citibank lends a few million overseas to finance a U.S. export and the foreign buyer defaults, Ex-Im uses taxpayer funds to cover Citibank's loss. “It’s free money,” one Wall Streeter told me at Ex-Im’s annual conference this year.

Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Bank of America, Citibank and Bank of New York Mellon are among the recipients of Ex-Im’s “free money,” and their PACs are funding Hagan’s reelection. The Financial Services Roundtable, a Wall Street lobby, is fighting to save Ex-Im and its PAC working to save Hagan.

Hagan, according to her financial disclosure forms, also owns somewhere between $1,000 and $15,000 in stock in each of Boeing, GE, United Technologies, and John Deere — all Ex-Im subsidy recipients. Ex-Im financiers Bank of America, JP Morgan and Citibank are all in Hagan’s stock portfolio, too.

Here’s one big reason incumbents like Hagan love Ex-Im: It allows them to take credit for jobs. Hagan in 2012 held a photo-op at a North Carolina Siemens factory to announce a $635 million direct loan from Ex-Im to a Saudi energy company buying Siemens generators.

Hagan appears on the campaign trail with Ex-Im-subsidized pickle producer Jenny Fulton. Without Ex-Im, Hagan couldn’t take credit for jobs at Siemens and Miss Jenny’s Pickles.

Government's growth protects incumbent businesses and politicians — regardless of what Democrats like Hagan pretend.

Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Sunday and Wednesday on washingtonexaminer.com.
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