Kodak boosted lobbying effort in months leading to loan

Eastman Kodak Co. significantly increased its spending to lobby the federal government in the months before the Trump administration announced a $765 million loan to the beleaguered camera company. (Dreamstime/TNS)
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By Michael Tobin and Eric Newcomer Bloomberg News (TNS)

Eastman Kodak Co. significantly increased its spending to lobby the federal government in the months before the Trump administration announced a $765 million loan to the beleaguered camera company.

Kodak spent $870,000 lobbying Congress and federal agencies from April through June, according to public disclosures filed with Congress. The Rochester, New York-based company hadn’t spent any money on lobbying since an expense of less than $5,000 in the first quarter of 2019, the reports show.

The recent lobbying may have helped secure a letter of interest from the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., announced on July 28, that would give Kodak a $765 million loan to manufacture pharmaceutical materials. When news of the loan offer was announced, Kodak’s stock rallied, climbing more than 2,000% at one point. That surge helped trigger federal investigations into potential securities law violations and stock options granted to Kodak’s executives days before the announcement.

“Now, suddenly, in this specific quarter when the government was considering this loan, they suddenly spent more money in the quarter than in any calendar year since 2011,” said Gabe Lezra, policy counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a government watchdog agency in Washington, which flagged the lobbying increase. “That to me jumps out simply because it’s such a huge change in the ways they were interacting with the government.”

Three of Kodak’s executives, including Chief Financial Officer David Bullwinkle, lobbied the Department of Defense, the Food and Drug Administration, the White House and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. during the three-month period, according to the reports. Kodak lobbied specifically for COVID-19 programs that pertained to “specialty chemicals manufacturing,” as well as the CARES Act and another coronavirus-relief bill.

The Daily Beast previously reported on Kodak’s lobbying spending.

“With the onset of COVID-19, Kodak, like many businesses across the country, explored federal support for the company and our workers, as well as opportunities to assist the government, on the state and federal level, in response to the pandemic,” a company spokesperson said. “This included our application for a federal loan to support the launch of Kodak Pharmaceuticals with the intent to bolster the domestic response to COVID-19.”

The federal agency that offered the loan to Kodak has since put the deal on hold. House Democrats have requested all communications about the loan.

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