A trade association linked to the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch will begin a new lobbying effort pressuring lawmakers to shut down the Export-Import Bank, a top target of conservative activists and outside groups that will cease to exist after June 30 if it is not reauthorized by Congress.
[Reposted from The New York Times | Nicholas Confessore | March 23, 2015]
The group, called Freedom Partners, will begin a six-figure digital advertising campaign and has set up a new website, eximexposed.org, to criticize the institution, which it has called a haven for cronyism and corporate welfare. But the real impact may not come from the size of the advertising campaign: The group’s members include the Kochs and several hundred other big conservative donors, whose allegiance (and wallets) are avidly sought by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.
The attack marks a significant expansion into advocacy for Freedom Partners, which is structured as a trade association. The group has previously functioned chiefly as a political consultancy and back office for the Kochs’ political network and allied donors; other Koch-backed organizations, such as Americans for Prosperity, have in the past taken a greater role in issue advocacy.
“The Ex-Im Bank puts billions of taxpayer dollars at risk to subsidize some of the world’s largest, most well-connected companies at the expense of hard-working American taxpayers,” said Marc Short, the president of Freedom Partners. “The expiration of Ex-Im is a central focus of Freedom Partners and will be a key test for lawmakers who claim to want to tackle the big problems.”
Freedom Partners’ decision also raises the stakes for contenders for the Republican presidential nomination who are hoping to secure the Kochs’ implicit or explicit blessing, effectively turning the Export-Import Bank into a kind of litmus test in what conservatives have called the “Koch primary.”
This month, Freedom Partners praised several of the contenders, including former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, for opposing reauthorization of the bank, and commended them for “exactly the kind of leadership” the country needed.