The Washington Post

Issa orders former Export-Import Bank employee to appear at Oversight hearing

A House committee has subpoenaed a former Export-Import Bank employee in a widening investigation that could complicate efforts to reauthorize the lender two months before its charter expires.

The worker is being ordered to testify Tuesday to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Thursday in an interview. The panel, which will examine allegations of corruption at the bank, also will hear from President Fred Hochberg.

“The American people feel these programs are not well run,” Issa said. “There are examples of perhaps loans that were not necessary and the question of corruption. So if you want to keep a program alive, make it justify itself and be clean.”

Several House Republicans, including incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), oppose letting the bank continue after Sept. 30 when its charter expires, saying private lenders can do the job. The bank helps foreign customers buy U.S. goods.

Republican lawmakers and tea-party-affiliated groups say the bank is a form of corporate welfare that primarily benefits companies including Boeing, General Electric and Caterpillar and should be shut when its charter expires. Issa said he favors continuing the bank, with some changes.

“Many of us support the concept of making sure there’s an availability of funds to support competitiveness in exports, but we have to make sure that the American people believe it’s being spent fairly and honestly,” Issa said.

Any investigation into the misconduct allegations may increase the chances that Congress will let the bank’s charter lapse, said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.

Opponents “get another arrow in their very large quiver,” Pitney said. “It provides another way of justifying opposition to the general public.”

After the hearing was announced, a top advocate of shuttering the bank said the congressional investigation is merited.

“The allegations of kickbacks and corruption at the Export-Import Bank are as disturbing as they are serious,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) said in a statement.

Issa said he signed a subpoena Thursday to compel the appearance of an employee, Johnny Gutierrez. “He refused to come voluntarily,” Issa said.

Matt Bevens, a spokesman for the bank, said Friday that Gutierrez has been dismissed. Gutierrez worked in the Ex-Im finance department.

Gutierrez’s lawyer, Douglas McNabb, said on June 24 that his client was under investigation and declined to provide additional details. McNabb didn’t respond to phone messages and e-mails Thursday seeking comment.

Becca Watkins, a committee spokeswoman, said Hochberg is among the witnesses. She didn’t identify others who will testify.

The bank’s inspector general is investigating alleged misconduct by four employees, and at least two of four people involved have left the bank, Hochberg said at a House hearing June 25. He didn’t name the employees.

Hochberg is defending the bank’s activities, challenging detractors who say the bank lets the government pick winners and losers in the marketplace.

“If you listen to some people in Washington, you’ll hear the term ‘crony capitalism’ thrown around a lot,” Hochberg told the New England Council, an alliance that backs economic development.

“You want to know what real crony capitalism looks like? It looks like the government of China supporting state-owned enterprises with opaque subsidies and outrageous financing terms,” he said, according to prepared remarks. “It has nothing in common with what we do at Ex-Im.”

The bank’s support for U.S. exports has benefited businesses including aircraft giant Boeing of Chicago and Hartzell Propellers of Piqua, Ohio. The bank last year backed $37.4 billion in exports and said it has returned more than $3.4 billion since 2005 to the Treasury.

The anti-bank drive gained momentum in June when McCarthy, elected as No. 2 House Republican, said he was joining other foes of the lender, including Hensarling and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

After that, 41 House Republicans wrote to Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and McCarthy urging them to move ahead with a long-term reauthorization to provide more certainty to exporters.

Congress is in session for 15 days before the charter expires because of a five-week recess starting Aug. 1. The Obama administration is seeking a five-year reauthorization and a gradual increase in the bank’s lending cap, to $160 billion from $140 billion.

When the bank was reauthorized for two years in 2012, it was after months of debate. President Obama signed the measure a day before the bank’s charter was scheduled to lapse.

— Bloomberg News

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
What to expect tonight
Tonight's debate is likely to focus on the concerns of African American and Latino voters. Clinton has focused in recent days on issues like gun control, criminal-sentencing reform, and the state of drinking water in Flint, Mich. Sanders has been aggressively moving to appeal to the same voters, combining his core message about economic unfairness with his own calls to reform the criminal-justice system.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.