WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. conservatives are increasing efforts to convince lawmakers to close the Export-Import Bank with a letter to Congress and targeted digital advertisements.
Freedom Partners, a conservative advocacy group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, wrote to members of Congress on Thursday urging them to let the export credit agency's mandate expire on June 30.
"The Export-Import Bank ... uses taxpayer dollars to boost profits for some of the world’s largest and most well-connected corporations," president Marc Short said in the letter.
"It also distorts the free marketplace, sends billions of dollars to foreign companies, puts 99 percent of America’s small businesses at a competitive disadvantage, and eliminates American jobs."
Ex-Im provides backing for U.S. exporters as well as to foreign buyers of U.S. goods, such as Boeing Co planes, which critics argue gives them an edge over U.S. competitors. The bank says it funds itself through fees and interest and returns a profit to taxpayers.
Freedom Partners started a six-figure digital advertising campaign this week blasting Ex-Im as a "bad deal," part of a push that will continue for the next few months.
Business groups are lobbying hard to keep the bank open, arguing its services are vital for small businesses snubbed by commercial lenders, support jobs and cost taxpayers nothing.
The National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and other industry groups wrote to lawmakers on Wednesday asking them to back legislation to reauthorize the bank.
Republican Paul Ryan, who heads the House of Representatives' Committee on Ways and Means, said on Thursday the bank should close.
"I see it as crony capitalism. The argument that other countries do it is an argument that just does not fly with me. We’re America," he told reporters.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes, additional reporting by David Lawder; editing by Andrew Hay)