The Wall Street Journal rips the veil off of General Motor’s true identity, revealing Government Motors in all its ignominious glory [sic]. The piece lists numerous examples of political interference with the automaker’s business, each worse than the one before. “Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota persuaded GM to rescind a closure order for a large dealership in Bloomington, Minn. In Tucson, Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords did the same for Don Mackey, owner of a longstanding Cadillac dealership with 80 employees. Rep. Giffords argues it made sense, even for GM, to keep the Mackey dealership, which sold 750 cars last year. ‘All I did was to help get GM to focus on his case,’ she says.” So that’s alright then? In America, politicians own you! “Lawmakers say it’s their obligation to guard the government’s investments, ensure that bailed-out firms are working in the country’s interests and protect their constituents.” Swallow blood pressure meds, continue . . .
That same month, GM dealer Pete Lopez in Spencer, W.Va., received notice that GM was giving him just over a year to shut down his Chevy, Pontiac and Buick dealership, which he’d acquired two years earlier . . . With an assist from his mayor, Mr. Lopez took his complaint straight to one of his state’s senators, Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee.
Sen. Rockefeller sent a letter to GM headquarters on Mr. Lopez’s behalf, according to a staff aide. He arranged for Mr. Lopez to come testify before a Senate panel in early June, alongside GM Chief Executive Frederick “Fritz” Henderson. The senator introduced the two men, giving Mr. Lopez a chance to make a personal pitch.
“He couldn’t have been nicer,” Mr. Lopez said of the GM CEO. “He said to me, ‘We’ve made some quick decisions and now we’re going to look it all over again.’ ”
The GM chief executive put Mr. Lopez in touch with Mark LaNeve, then the company’s top official for North American sales. The dealer received a response on the last Saturday in June while fishing on a lake near his house.
“Mr. LaNeve called and said, ‘I’ve got some good news for you. We’re going to save your dealership,’ ” Mr. Lopez recalls. He says he owes it all to Sen. Rockefeller.
Rockefeller? The Senator who insisted that GM CEO Henderson surrender the list of closed GM dealers for the public good, and then kept it private (failing to return TTAC’s calls)? Would it be too cynical to suggest that the secret dealer list would have presented an excellent opportunity for Rockefeller’s staff to shake-down threatened dealers in exchange for political support and cash money?
Is there more? Of course there’s more.
Similar rescues have played out across the country. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Dan Maffei, both New York Democrats, helped save Crest Cadillac of Syracuse. “There would not have been a Cadillac dealership in all of central New York,” says Mr. Maffei. “That would have been a problem.” Mr. Maffei insists there was no “strong-arming here. We just asked GM to take a look at it.”
So far, GM has given reprieves to 70 dealerships nationwide. GM’s Washington spokesman says congressional pressure helped “put a focus on an individual dealer’s plight.” Beyond that, he said, “decisions to save individual dealerships were made on the merits.”
Is there more? Of course there’s more.
In addition to the dealership issue, lawmakers have jumped into a union fight that pits GM and Chrysler against two trucking companies that haul new cars around the country. The auto makers want to give some of the work to cheaper nonunion contractors. But that raised the ire of lawmakers who support the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Rep. Dale Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan, sent letters on Sept. 30 to the chief executives of both GM and Chrysler, demanding they explain their positions and advising them to stick with their unionized carriers. At least four other lawmakers sent similar letters.
Is there more? Yes, but not all of its in this article. And I think you get the picture: your taxes hard at work.