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Koch-backed group will unleash ads targeting some corporate tax breaks, Export-Import Bank

Key Points
  • Influential conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is launching a new six-figure ad campaign Monday attacking the Export-Import Bank and special tax breaks.
  • The group, which is affiliated with billionaire Charles Koch, is spending $250,000 on digital ads attacking both issues. The campaign will run on Facebook and Twitter and target members of both parties on key committees in the House and Senate.
  • The ExIm Bank has also been a longtime target of conservatives. The bank provides financing to companies that export goods and helps foreign companies buy goods from the United States.
Charles Koch, head of Koch Industries.
Bo Rader | Wichita Eagle | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An influential conservative advocacy group is launching a new six-figure ad campaign Monday attacking the Export-Import Bank and special tax breaks.

Americans for Prosperity, the political organization affiliated with billionaire Charles Koch, is spending $250,000 on digital ads attacking both issues. The campaign will run on Facebook and Twitter and target members of both parties on key committees in the House and Senate.

"When the government plays favorites, somebody's gotta lose, and it doesn't have to be us anymore," the ad states.

Fighting the reauthorization of the ExIm Bank and the package of tax breaks known as "extenders" are two of AFP's top legislative priorities this year. The group has been sending out direct mail on the issues for the past three weeks and is planning to fly in members to blitz Capitol Hill on July 10.

The ads are part of a larger campaign dubbed "Unrig the Economy" that will span several years. AFP is devoting an initial $1.3 million to the effort.

"For too long both parties have gotten drunk drinking from the cup of corporate welfare and cronyism," said Brent Gardner, head of government for AFP. "We continue to expose the special treatment of politically connected industries and interests at the expense of the tax-paying public."

Tax extenders are a package of industry-specific tax breaks that are ostensibly temporary but that lawmakers typically renew. This time around, however, that hasn't happened — at least not yet. Many of the provisions expired in 2017 after Republicans passed their overhaul of the tax code.

But the new tax law included temporary tax breaks of its own, and lawmakers are proposing a bill that would revive many of the expired provisions and extend new ones. The House Ways and Means committee passed an extenders bill last month despite objections from a handful of Democrats.

The Senate Finance Committee is still reviewing the proposal, according to a spokesman. Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, recently convened several task forces to study extenders, and they are expected to report back within a few weeks.

Tax extenders have come under fire from an unusually broad array of groups. AFP and other conservative organizations such as Heritage Action and Freedom Partners joined with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute and U.S. PIRG to call for an end to the package last year.

"Though our organizations span the political spectrum, we all agree that it is time to stop making tax policy one year at a time," the coalition said in a December letter. "Continuing to renew special-interest tax giveaways on a temporary and often retroactive basis is bad tax, fiscal, and economic policy."

The ExIm Bank has also been a longtime target of conservatives. The bank provides financing to companies that export goods and helps foreign companies buy goods from the United States. But critics say many of its loans go to businesses that don't need it.

A recent analysis by the Mercatus Center — which also has ties to Koch — found that Boeing was the top beneficiary of the bank from fiscal year 2007 to 2017, receiving about a third of all aid during that time.

"The ExIm bank has a tremendous amount of politics in it, which really puts taxpayers on the hook," said Russ Latino, vice president at Stand Together, the umbrella organization for the Koch network.

The bank's authorization will expire at the end of September, and a bill that would have renewed it for seven years is facing backlash from both Democrats and Republicans. House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., shelved the proposal over concerns about company disclosure requirements, environmental issues and limits on deals with Chinese state-owned enterprises.

Still, Waters said she is committed to finding a bipartisan solution to keep the bank operating.

"There is a feeling that it is beneficial to our neighborhoods, our communities, our country, that we're able to strengthen our export possibilities," Waters said during a committee meeting last week. "For those of us who really believe that it is important to have Export-Import, we believe that we should work at it."