The “all hands on deck” lobbying campaign to save the corporatist Export-Import Bank is really getting going: The campaign is placing a gigantic amount of paid and self-interested op-eds in newspapers throughout the states. It’s also paying for industry experts to write reports to support their cause. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, as long as the financial connection is disclosed clearly. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case, and pro-Ex-Im lobbyists have been a little misleading with some of the research they cite to support their case.
Earlier this week, for instance, Politico Influence reported that the Aerospace Industries Association, a key pro-Ex-Im industry lobbying group, and Boeing, Ex-Im’s single largest beneficiary, have cited the work of Vadim Linetsky in at least two letters to Congress urging the bank’s reauthorization: In a July letter to Congress, the AIA cited Linetsky’s work on commercial airplane financing. Later in August, Tim Keating, a senior vice president for government affairs at Boeing, also cited Linetsky’s research in his letter to Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling.
Dr. Linetsky certainly has the technical chops to comment on the issue: He is a professor of industrial engineering and management services at Northwestern University and an expert on financial-markets pricing.
But there’s one important detail that the AIA and Boeing forgot to mention: Boeing has paid Dr. Linetsky for research in the past and these groups are citing research that a Boeing-funded industry group paid for. In fact, it appears that the two groups have explicitly downplayed any association between them and Linetsky: Boeing described Linetsky as a “widely recognized expert” while the AIA called him an “independent technical expert” without noting that he published paid industry research for the groups in the past.
Initially, Boeing tried to downplay the “mistake.” A company spokesman told Politico that the study they referenced was commissioned by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a neutral non-governmental organization. Even if this was the case, Boeing still should have disclosed that Linetsky had been hired to do research on their behalf in the past. The Northwestern University website states that Linetsky’s research has been funded by the Boeing Capital Corporation. Boeing should have been honest upfront to avoid further embarrassment.
It turns out that Boeing was wrong about the OECD report too, as Politico later reported. The study that Boeing referenced in the letter to Congress was not commissioned by the OECD, but by another industry group called the Aviation Working Group. A 2010 report that Dr. Linetsky prepared for the AWG lists his relationship as an “independent technical advisor to the Aviation Working Group.” Boeing should be aware of these facts — since it’s a member of the Aviation Working Group..
The problem is not that Boeing, the AIA, and the AGW are citing research that they themselves have commissioned, but that they did not disclose their relationship with the scholar. Linetsky’s work should stand on its own merits, regardless of who signs his checks, but many people are naturally suspicious of paid research that supports the policies of its funders. We deserve honesty from companies that engage in these practices, like Boeing, so that we know when to apply stricter scrutiny.