Ex-Im Helps Hillary's Friends at Boeing, Not Women-Owned Firms

Ex-Im assistance to women-owned firms barely makes a dent as a portion of the total economy. The roughly 200 women-owned firms that Ex-Im backs each year constitute a mere 1 percent of the total 20,000 women-owned firms in the entire U.S. economy.

Here’s some news that is sure to shock no one: Hillary Clinton is a big fan of the Export-Import Bank. During a recent address at a Little Rock event hosted by the No Ceilings Project, Clinton made a point to support the federal subsidizer of exporting multinational corporations. 

The perpetual presidential hopeful told the crowd that the Ex-Im Bank is “a tool for us to be competitive in order to support our businesses exporting.” She claimed that those who oppose Ex-Im’s questionable lending practices to large, politically connected corporations are driven by ideology, not by evidence. Setting aside the fact that economists of all ideological backgrounds have amassed mountains of evidence that Ex-Im does not meaningfully improve U.S. exports or jobs, distorts international markets, and directly harms the 98 percent of unsubsidized workers, consumers, and exporters that don’t have friends in Washington, Hillary Clinton’s own support of Ex-Im isn’t exactly based on “evidence” either. In fact, Clinton maintains questionable political alliances with some of Ex-Im’s biggest beneficiaries. 

First, it is ironic, and wildly out-of-touch, that Clinton should sing Ex-Im’s praises at an event dedicated to promoting equality for women and girls. Corporate interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce try to spin Ex-Im’s corporatist lending to politically favored firms by arguing that women-owned firms greatly benefit from Ex-Im. But the data show otherwise

Ex-Im assistance to women-owned firms barely makes a dent as a portion of the total economy. The roughly 200 women-owned firms that Ex-Im backs each year constitute a mere 1 percent of the total 20,000 women-owned firms in the entire U.S. economy. The same is true when you look at export value backed: The $403.5 million in Ex-Im-backed export value for women-owned firms is a mere 3 percent of the roughly $15 billion in export value produced by all women-owned firms in the economy. 

Nor is Ex-Im’s portfolio significantly dedicated to the cause of women. Only 1.02 percent of Ex-Im authorizations and 5.8 percent of the Ex-Im firms backed from 2007 to 2014 are marked as “women-owned.” Then there’s the inconvenient fact that only 3 of Ex-Im’s 44 presidents and chairmen have been women. By all accounts, it appears that the patriarchy is alive and well down at the Export-Import Bank. 

This all assumes that Ex-Im’s women-owned firm assistance data is accurate. Recently, Reuters released a bombshell report revealing that hundreds of firms that Ex-Im records designated as “small business” firms are in reality huge corporations owned by billionaires like Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim. This means that at least $3 billion in authorizations, or 8 percent of Ex-Im’s portfolio, have been improperly categorized as small business lending. While the Reuters report did not analyze the accuracy of Ex-Im’s women-owned lending, it is possible that much of this portfolio reached less than the “100 percent accuracy” that an Ex-Im representative admitted was “unacceptable.” 

Reuters concludes that Ex-Im’s misleading reporting is a “primarily political” problem. So is Hillary Clinton’s support of the bank. In April of this year, Clinton’s questionable relationship with Ex-Im’s top beneficiary, the Boeing Corporation, was revealed. The Washington Post reported that while serving as Secretary of State, Clinton “functioned as a powerful ally for Boeing’s business interests at home and abroad, while Boeing has invested resources in causes beneficial to Clinton’s public and political image.” 

Although the State Department had developed ethics guidelines against assisting Boeing because of its “frequent reliance on the government for help negotiating overseas business,” Clinton ignored these prohibitions and negotiated a $2 million deal with the aerospace giant to host a pavilion at the World’s Fair. Shortly after Clinton shepherded a $3.7 billion aircraft purchase deal between Boeing and the Russian government in 2010—characterized in her own words as “a shameless pitch … to buy Boeing aircraft”— Boeing announced it would contribute $900,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation. 

More recently, Boeing’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations, Tim Keating, worked for the Ready for Hillary Super PAC, along with an “an array of well-connected Democratic lobbyists and politicos.” In her memoir, Clinton writes that she considered her role as Secretary of State to be as an “advocate-in-chief” for American corporations like Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Electric, two other top Ex-Im beneficiaries. Clearly, Clinton’s support of Ex-Im stems from her cozy relationships with some of the U.S.’s most powerful corporations, not average Americans and certainly not women and girls. 

While Hillary Clinton and Boeing’s relationship may be “mutually beneficial,” the Export-Import Bank is certainly of no benefit to the average American. The bank imposes annual net costs of $3 billion on U.S. industries that are not subsidized by Ex-Im, is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to cost taxpayers $2 billion over the next decade, and privileges politically connected corporations over everyone else. If opposing Clinton’s brand of corporatism and political opportunism makes one an “ideologue,” then who would want to be anything else?