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 / Updated  / Source: NBC News
By Leigh Ann Caldwell

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has become the voice and face of a Charles and David Koch priority – ending the Export-Import Bank. Rubio’s involvement in a public and aggressive campaign by the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity comes as Charles Koch announced that Rubio is one of five candidates that the wealthy conservative political activists are closely monitoring.

The Republican presidential contender has long opposed the bank but so have numerous other White House hopefuls, including Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Even former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has recently shifted his position on the issue and come out against the bank. (The banks charter expires on June 30 unless Congress reauthorizes it.) But Rubio is doing more than speak out against the bank, he is teaming up with AFP to draw attention to the issue, speaking on a conference call for reporters hosted by AFP Thursday and will attend an AFP policy luncheon next Friday that focuses on the issue.

The Export-Import bank has split the Republican Party. Mainstream business interests, including the Chamber of Commerce, support it while libertarian-leaning Republicans, including the Kochs, oppose it.

In an interview with USA Today earlier this week, Charles Koch said he and his brother are interested in five candidates. In addition to Rubio, they include Jeb Bush, Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul.

"What we've told them all is that right now, we're not supporting anyone," Koch told USA Today. "We're telling them that if they want our support, one way to get it is articulating a good message to help Americans get a better understanding and a better appreciation of how certain policies … will benefit them and will benefit all America."

The Kochs oppose the bank even though they have business ventures that have benefited from the Ex-Im Bank.

The Export-Import bank, which is an obscure independent agency that provides loan guarantees to foreign companies that are trying to buy goods from American manufacturers, is a critical issue for the Koch brothers. The bank is criticized for skewing private markets and benefiting a few major corporations, mostly Boeing, which receive the government-funded guarantee.

“It doesn’t level the playing field for U.S. exporters,” Rubio said Thursday on the AFP-sponsored call.

Rubio also said on the call that he has “tremendous admiration” for the Kochs.

“We’re clearly aligned on the issue of freedom” and small government, Rubio said. “I’d love to earn their support, of course.”