Small Business Owners Pleading For Ex-Im Renewal Fail To Disclose Ties To Controversial Bank

President Obama
President Obama / AP

On Wednesday afternoon, President Obama hosted a meeting of 10 small business owners at the White House and used those in attendance as reason why the Export-Import bank’s charter should be renewed, claiming without the bank’s assistance their businesses would suffer.

One of the "small business owners" at the meeting Obama said would be impacted if Congress failed to reauthorize the bank’s charter is closely tied to top Ex-Im executives, has received millions in taxpayer-backed subsidies, and acts as an advisor to the bank–a trend that has occurred numerous times in the media during the push to save the bank.

Mary Howe, president of Howe Corporation based out of Chicago, Illinois, sat in the meeting as Obama attempted to "debunk" criticism from opponents who say the bank provides massive subsidies to large corporations while hiding behind a veil of helping small businesses.

Howe is a current member of the Export-Import Bank’s Advisory Committee and was appointed by the bank’s board of directors, including Chairman and President of Ex-Im Fred Hochberg. Hochberg is one of the highest-ranked businessmen in the Obama administration. Her company, Howe Corporation, has received $7 million in subsidies since 2007.

Howe is not alone in being trotted out by the bank’s supporters as they simultaneously lobby for its renewal without disclosing their close-knit relationship to the bank’s top management and personal interests.

Don Nelson, chief executive of ProGauge Technologies located in California, was the centerpiece of a story run by the Los Angeles Times in late June. Nelson claimed without Ex-Im he wouldn’t be able to export anymore.

"It's going to be devastating for us," Nelson told the Los Angeles Times. "Basically, we just won't be able to export anymore."

Nelson also currently sits on Ex-Im’s Advisory Committee and has received at least $15 million in subsidies from the bank since 2007. They did not disclose their relationship within the story.

On another occasion, Indianapolis-based ABRO Technologies told the Indianapolis Star the bank increased its sales by nearly 80 percent. Peter Baraney, president of the company, sat on Ex-Im’s Advisory Board in 2012 and 2013 and has received $450 million in financing from between 2007 and 2015. In this piece, there is also no mention of his previous connections to the bank.

These are just a few of the many occasions Ex-Im advisors have been used to show how the bank helped "small businesses" within recent years.

Ex-Im, whose main function is to underwrite taxpayer-backed loans to foreign companies to purchase American products, officially lost its charter on June 30.

Critics often refer to Ex-Im as "Boeing’s Bank" as most of the bank’s authorizations go towards the aerospace company while proponents say small-and medium- sized businesses will be at a disadvantage without the bank’s reauthorization.

However, only 24 percent of the bank’s 2014 transactions went towards small businesses despite proponents claiming many smaller companies will suffer without the renewed charter. More than 99.9 percent of small businesses located within the United States do not benefit from the bank in any way.