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By W. Gardner Selby May 7, 2015

Rick Perry flip-flops on support for Export-Import Bank

In 2014, Rick Perry urged Congress to keep afloat the federal Export-Import Bank.

In May 2015, he said let it die.

Cue the PolitiFact Flip-O-Meter.

Perry in 2014

As noted in a June 27, 2014, Dallas Morning News blog post, Perry sent a letter to congressional leaders that month urging them to continue the bank, which was then set to lose its authorization unless members embraced President Barack Obama’s request to extend it.

The News’ story pointed out that Republicans were divided on reauthorization: Some seeking to limit the government’s role in the economy on ideological grounds were pitted against those who sought to preserve programs they said help grow the economy. The story quoted Barney Keller of the conservative Club for Growth group saying that like the Small Business Administration and its loans to small businesses, the bank inserts the government into the economy in ways it shouldn’t. "The Ex-Im Bank is corporate welfare, simple as that," he said. "It should be eliminated."

In contrast, the story said, supporters of reauthorization maintained that  ending the bank would put large U.S. exporters, especially, at a disadvantage with their foreign counterparts. The bank says its mission is to "ensure that U.S. companies — large and small — have access to the financing they need to turn export opportunities into sales. Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private institutions," the bank says, going on: "We fill gaps in the trade finance market by working with lenders and brokers to ensure that U.S. businesses get what they need to sell abroad and be competitive in international markets."

Perry said in his June 25, 2014, letter to Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate that as governor of "America’s leading exporting state I encourage you to reauthorize" the bank. "I understand some are concerned about this bank, but if there are ways to improve the program by making it more transparent, I would encourage you to do so as part of the reauthorization," Perry wrote. "To unilaterally disarm by not reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank puts American companies at a disadvantage in their ability to compete in the global marketplace, will cost jobs and will drive up prices for American-made goods," Perry said.

Perry in 2015

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Nearly a year later, Perry swiveled.

In an op-ed column published by the Wall Street Journal, which came to our attention in a May 5, 2015, Texas Tribune news story, Perry said he "can't get on board" with reauthorizing the charter for the 80-year-old bank. The bank was set to shutter if Congress didn’t reauthorize it by July 2015.

Perry's piece--headlined: "Why I’m Changing My Mind and Opposing the Ex-Im Bank"--credited the bank with playing a role in igniting the Texas economy in his time as governor. Since 2007, he wrote, more than 1,200 Texas companies had obtained help from Ex-Im in financing more than $24 billion in exports.

Perry also recalled his gubernatorial concern about unilateral disarmament, economically speaking, but then went on to say he could no longer back the bank out of concern for "revelations of corruption and bribery at the institution" involving an official pleading guilty to accepting bribes, among factors.

He also questioned the bank subsidizing exports by big corporations. "We won’t have the moral credibility to reduce corporate taxes if we continue to subsidize corporate exports for corporations that already enjoy low effective tax rates, like General Electric and Boeing," Perry wrote. "We won’t have the moral credibility to reform government programs that benefit future retirees if we don’t first reform government programs that benefit big businesses like Caterpillar. We won’t be able to give businesses more regulatory latitude if we continue to operate a government bank with an emerging record of corporate corruption."

Perry closed: "We could pair Ex-Im’s retirement with corporate tax reform—a more effective way to improve the competitiveness of U.S. companies. We should work with our partners in the World Trade Organization to roll back the use of export-import banks by other countries, so that American exporters don’t face an unfair playing field."

We emailed aides to Perry about his shift and didn't hear back.

Our ruling

Full change in position? On the Flip-O-Meter, that’s a FULL FLOP!

UPDATE, May 8, 2015: We updated this article to quote directly from Perry's May 2015 oped column. This did not affect the Flip-O-Meter rating.

Our Sources

News story, "Rick Perry to Congress: Don’t kill the Export-Import Bank; says it adds jobs," Dallas Morning News, June 27, 2014

Website, Export-Import Bank of the United States (accessed May 6, 2015)

Letter from Gov. Rick Perry to congressional leaders urging reauthorization of Export Import bank, June 25, 2014 (posted online by the Dallas Morning News)

News story, "Perry Reverses Position on Export-Import Bank," Texas Tribune, May 5, 2015

Oped column by Rick Perry, "Why I'm Changing My Mind and Opposing the Ex-Im Bank," Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2015

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Rick Perry flip-flops on support for Export-Import Bank

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