Huffpost Politics

Joni Ernst Supports Government Agency Her Tea Party Backers Hate

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UNITED STATES - AUGUST 08: Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate candidate, campaigns at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 8, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 08: Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate candidate, campaigns at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 8, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Recent Democratic political messaging and a number of news reports have compared Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst to tea party darling and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. But the Iraq war veteran just proved that on one issue, she's closer to the GOP establishment -- and some Democrats -- than the more anti-government wing of her party

Ernst said in a CNBC interview that aired Wednesday that she supports the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that provides loans to foreign companies seeking to purchase American products.

"I would want to look at it carefully, but Iowa's economy ... we have many spin-off industries, like Vermeer, we have John Deere, and they rely on Ex-Im Bank," Ernst told CNBC correspondent John Harwood. "As long as other countries offer that opportunity to their exporters, I think that's something that we need to offer to our industry also."

That argument echoes those of the program’s supporters, like former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a one-time chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Frank told The Huffington Post last month that cutting off the bank's effective subsidy for American exporters would amount to "unilateral disarmament."

"As long as other countries subsidize their exports, we would be putting our guys at a competitive disadvantage," Frank added.

The bank, which finances about 2 percent of U.S. exports, will be shut down this year unless Congress reauthorizes it by the end of September. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a vital donor for Republicans, is pushing hard to make sure the bank survives. But conservative groups aligned with the tea party movement, such as Americans for Prosperity, the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Club For Growth and Heritage Action, deride the agency for favoring large corporations and believe it is time for it go.

That's where Ernst is in a quandary. She has been touted as one of the few Republican candidates who draws support from across the spectrum within her party. Americans for Prosperity, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Chamber have all come out in support of Ernst's effort against Democratic nominee Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa). She was the first candidate to receive support from both the Chamber and the Senate Conservatives Fund this election cycle.

Braley also supports the bank. That view fits neatly into the image groups like American for Prosperity are trying to paint of him -- the AFP site calls him "Big Government Braley."

It's not immediately clear how Ernst’s support of the bank will affect her standing with these conservative groups. HuffPost has reached out to Ernst's campaign, Americans for Prosperity, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Chamber but has yet to hear back.

Ernst and Braley are vying for the seat presently held by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). According to HuffPost Pollster, which is tracking 17 polls publicly available in the race, Braley currently has a slim one-point lead.

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