Export-Import Bank

The Case of the Mysteriously Missing Export-Import Bank Data

Information being used to critique the cronyist institution has disappeared online.


Transparency in action.
Credit: Squidmediaro | Dreamstime.com

Reason contributor and Mercatus Institute Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy is no fan of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, that federal institution that exists pretty much entirely for the purpose of advancing cronyist policies, awarding billions in loans and insurance to private companies, with the taxpayers taking on responsibility for the risks. She blasted the bank in our August/September issue last year, pointing out the many, many problems in how the bank runs. And she has data to back it up, some of which she scraped off data.gov, the federal site that bills itself as the place to find "data, tools, and resources to conduct research, develop web and mobile applications, design data visualizations, and more."

It's a good thing she saved all that data, because now it has mysteriously disappeared. In fact, there is now absolutely nothing about the Ex-Im Bank to be found at Data.gov. De Rugy made note at National Review last week:

Last summer, I mentioned that the public dataset about the Export-Import Bank that I'd been using to conduct analyses and visualizations of its activities for the Mercatus Center had been removed from Data.gov, the federal government's information site. Thankfully, we had downloaded a clean copy of the full data before they were removed, so I can still use them to debunk the misleading claims made by Ex-Im defenders. Data.gov still listed a few other files with application data and other pdfs that could still be accessed, but the data were gone. 

Well, as it turns out, not only is that dataset still unavailable, but now there are no datasets for the Ex-Im Bank listed on Data.gov at all. Nothing. Every single file has been removed without a trace, making it hard for me to believe that this sudden disappearance was an accident.

I attempted several different searches of my own and can confirm there is no data to be found about the Export-Import Bank at data.gov. I contacted the communications office of the bank, both by telephone and e-mail on Wednesday, to give them a chance to explain what might have happened, as the data site has apparently been going through upgrades. Nobody from the Ex-Im Bank has responded.

De Rugy's work shows that, counter to the Ex-Im Bank's frequent claims, it contributes little to the success of small businesses, yet is a financial boon to massive companies like Boeing and General Electric. (You can go through all of her collected graphics and information based on that Ex-Im Bank data here).

So, because the data has all been saved, de Rugy was able to arrange to repost it all online (update: in a joint project with Eli Dourado, Chris Koopman and Andrea Castillo). The spreadsheets can now be accessed, in all their glory, here at eximuncensored.com. She says she would much prefer for the information to go back online at data.gov, because that's where anybody wanting clean data about the bank is going to look. The Export-Import Bank does have its own annual reports that list all their loans, but de Rugy says the information is far from complete. The data sets she pulled from data.gov had much more information (but were also, nevertheless, incomplete as well).

Read more Reason criticism of the Ex-Im Bank's horrible cronyism here.