By on July 22, 2010

Remember how Toyota was slapped with a $16.4m fine for allegedly withholding information and delaying recalls? Remember how Toyota was served again with a subpoena for information, what many read as the prelude for another $16.4m fine? (If anyone again says that $16,4m is pocket change, please send me the pocket change.) Well, there are some people in Washington who claim that it’s the U.S.  government that might be withholding information.

According to Dow Jones Newswire (via The Nikkei [sub] ) “the Obama administration came under pressure to disclose more information about its investigation of Toyota Motor Corp. with congressional Republicans questioning whether officials are withholding data that could favor Toyota in some crashes.”

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to NHTSA, asking them to fork over crash data that, according to articles in the Wall Street Journal and TTAC article published last week, proves that in many crashes, the driver had his or her foot on the gas instead of the brake.

The Journal said they had it from “people familiar with the crash-data test results” and Joe Barton thinks thos people might be at the NHTSA. As far as the NHTSA or the DOT are concerned, mum’s the word. There are other people who point fingers at Toyota and say that it was Toyota who “planted” that story, but Barton isn’t buying it.

Barton sent a strongly worded letter to NHTSA boss David Strickland, The letterwas also signed by Energy and Commerce Committee members Reps. Ed Whitfield (R., Ky.) and Michael Burgess (R., Texas).  The letter says that “it is important for us to know whether NHTSA has EDR data showing that some incidents of reported sudden unintended acceleration were the result of pedal misapplication.”

The Republicans wave a big stick: They point out in the letter that the House is expected to vote soon on a far-reaching vehicle-safety bill that would up the financial ante considerably, and could even land car executive in jail. Subliminal message: If you want that law to pass anytime soon, hand over the information. Too bad there is no clause in any law that the fine gets refunded if the government withholds information. That’s not the way it works.

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26 Comments on “U.S. Government Accused of Withholding Exonerating Toyota Information...”


  • avatar
    thecavanaughs

    Ridiculous. Why, if these allegations were true then it would suggest some type of anti-big-business agenda in the current administration. Can you imagine anything so farfetched? If the White House was anti-business, they would have pushed for legislation creating layers of new regulation and government oversight in several major US industries (Auto, Housing, Energy production, Banking, etc.). They would have given executive orders that hurt our commercial interests. They would have used the bully pulpit to vilify banks, insurance companies, and the amorphous entity of Wall Street over and over again, on nearly every issue . When I start to see some of those things happening, then I’ll believe a reckless accusation like this!

    • 0 avatar
      johngalt

      Well done Cavanaughs, well done.

    • 0 avatar

      Or could it be that someone would like to hurt GM’s (Government Motors) competition? That seems easier to believe that an general anti-corporation trend.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      There is no such thing as an anti-business platform in American politics. The Democrats tend to be more friendly to media, the Republicans to finance and resource-extraction, but neither side is at all anti-corporate or anti-globalist.

      There are exactly two, maybe three, American politicans who might fit that mold: Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich and possibly Bob Barr. They have exactly zero chance of ever seeing real power because of their respective parties’ ties to business. When the Libertarians or Greens become anything more than a write-off that might change.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      thecavanaughs,

      You are right, I’m not buying any of this “anti-business” stuff. If the BO admin slaps a moratorium on deep well drilling because of the BP oil spill – well then you might have something but until then I won’t believe it.1

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      @psarhjinian:
      +1, the USA is in fact corporate-run.
      The differences between “the right” and “the left” have in practice become microscopic. Only the rhetoric differs, once elected they all do pretty much the same things, as they’re all beholden to the same network of corporate overlords.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Agree. Cavanaughs, your comment cannot be bettered. It’s interesting to note that few, if any, of the the present administration would qualify to be hired by Toyota for any position.

    This includes the president – who does not appear to have any talent whatsoever.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Wasn’t Barton the guy being embarassed of and apologizing to bp for being the White House “shakedown”? (Wonder if he also regrets bp’s being pushed to cancel its dividend to help fund the fund.)

    BTW, I am somewhat bifurcated when it comes to Cavanaugh’s comments … on one part, it appears that lack of regulation and enforcement led to economic destruction and a failure to increase regulation and enforcement will just reinforce the failures of the past … on the other part, I wonder if the failures of the future will be worse than the failures of the past … for the moment, I’m inclined to go for more regulation (I’ve seen it in my own industry, automotive, that leaving OEM’s to their own devices, self-regulation, and the corrective forces of the Market, never really works.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Rep. Joe Barton is an engineer in a room full of lawyers. BS Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M and a masters in industrial administration from Purdue. Also has some oil industry experience. The apology to BP was politically embarrassing, but Joe was one of the few people in the room who knew anything about the subject matter being discussed. Sad that most of the people who decide to represent us are worthless BS Political Science plus law degree types.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      @George B

      As a guy with bachelor’s degrees in both engineering and poli sci, let me be the first to say that I don’t understand your point at all.

  • avatar
    ott

    NHTSA overturned their “ruling” on the safety of Toyota’s vehicles based on their own investigation. Only when they had nowhere else to turn did they admit they were wrong and no fault could be found with Toyota. So of course they withheld information, at least as long as they possibly could before they had to spill the beans and admit their mistake. That’s obvious. How else would they be able to justify the circus hearings that ensued in Washington? The politicians and NHTSA have reputations to uphold, you know!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Not that I wouldn’t put it past the government to not disclose data, but what this is is Republican posturing.

    They’ve got a big, fat pair of ideological black-eyes from the financial meltdown and the oil leak in the gulf. What they are trying to do, desperately, is draw attention away from those items and cast doubt on the Democrat’s platform.

    Second, what they absolutely do not want is Democratic success on ideologically thorny issues—health care, financial reform, increased regulation—again, because they’re on weak footing themselves. If the economy turns around, if the gulf oil issue is handled well, if health care improves, they’re hosed, so they’re trying to sabotage and delay wherever possible.

    The same game was played after 9/11, though it was the Republicans who were in the driver’s seat and it was the Democrats who, I might add, did a far, far worse job at being obstructionist and the Republicans who did a much better job at communication their message and pushing their ideology along with it.

    Personally, I lean left (way, way left of Obama, for the record) and I’d say the Democrats are utterly useless at image and issue management compared to the Republicans.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      The same game was played after 9/11, though it was the Republicans who were in the driver’s seat and it was the Democrats who, I might add, did a far, far worse job at being obstructionist and the Republicans who did a much better job at communication their message and pushing their ideology along with it.

      As someone who leans right (way right of Obama, for the record), don’t underestimate the Republican abiltiy to self destruct. On the surface the GOP can be more efficient (or less emotional?) than the Dems (like in 2002, post9-11). But Republicans often lack follow through – hence their often self-deprecating moniker, “The Stupid Party”.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      As a Michigan moderate Republican (leaning toward the center from the right side), I afraid that the GOP is rising to meet the “Stupid Party” moniker the more conservative they get.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      “They’ve got a big, fat pair of ideological black-eyes from the financial meltdown and the oil leak in the gulf. What they are trying to do, desperately, is draw attention away from those items and cast doubt on the Democrat’s platform.”

      What a bunch of Barbara Streisand – BS. It was government lending laws that were responsible for the meltdown (and we haven’t seen the end of the mess of government run Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, nor I lament will we ever see the likes of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank get their just deserts).

      These high-risk, bad loans created from these actions were pooled into government sponsored enterprises (or GSE’s), such as the now infamous Fanny Mae, and Freddie Mac. After the two GSE’s had amassed more than $5 TRILLION of bad-mortgage backed securities, the Bush administration, and Republican Senators, such as John McCain, Elizabeth Dole, and Chuck Hagel, sponsored a bill that would allow the then administration to have more oversight on what kind of assets the GSE’s should take on. The bill was eventually shot down by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which of its members were BARACK OBAMA, and its chairman CHRIS DODD. Barney Frank even described Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac as “not facing any kind of financial crisis.”

      As for the Gulf it was BO’s admin that gave BP it’s permits and even it’s safety awards. The guys been president for a year and a half, you going to blame this on Bush? Are there Republicans still staffing the Department of the Interior? And further, who was it that made them drill so deep for oil? Republicans or environmentalists? If this had occurred in shallow water, Obama wouldn’t have had to interrupt his golf game because it would have been plugged up along time ago. Oh, wait, he didn’t interrupt his game after all!

      ihatetrees:
      “Republicans often lack follow through – hence their often self-deprecating moniker, “The Stupid Party”.’

      So true, but remember the nickname of the Democrat Party, “The Destructive Party”.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      It took some searching but I found the bill. It was January 2005 when it was introduced. It was called the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005. Introduced January 26, it’s first listed purpose was to establish “an independent Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Agency which shall have authority over the Federal Home Loan Bank Finance Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Banks, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac).” Also known as Senate Bill 190.

      As of May 2006, it still had not passed the senate. On the 25th of that month John McCain (remember him?) said this before the Senate:

      “Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae’s regulator reported that the company’s quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were “illusions deliberately and systematically created” by the company’s senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.

      …The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator’s examination of the company’s accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.

      For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs — and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO’s report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

      I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.”

      Ouch. McCain’s call for reform was not heeded. Nor were similar calls for reform by President Bush. And the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act died with the end of the 190th Congress when the GOP lost control of both houses.

  • avatar
    Invisible

    Anytime Chicago Political Thugs(Lahood) get involved with anything, an investigation should be started soon after.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    “Anytime Chicago Political Thugs(Lahood) get involved with anything, an investigation should be started soon after.”

    Well said Invisible, well said.

    This has nothing to do with the Whitehouse having an anti-business agenda and everything to do with thuggish politicians in league with union goons trying to destroy Toyota’s reputation. Toyota does not have these problems anywhere else, only the US. Yet most of the same cars are sold everywhere else.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    Psarhjinian, you are very slick, you say some things that are totally false but you say them with such authority that a reader assumes that they are true. That is an old rhetorical trick used by debators to defend and indefensible position. Say it loud and long enough it becomes true.

    The main lie in this thread is that Republicans get most of the financial industries money, look it up for yourselves and see. In the last election cycle overwhelmingly Wall Street money went to the Democrats and Obama.

    Everyone remember if he says something check it out for yourselves, he is a liar enslaved to his ideology.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You’re misinterpreting me.

      For one, political funding follows the likely winners, which McCain and the rest of the Republican party was not one in 2008. Who funds whom swings a bit in given year, usually tracking the likely winner. Go back to 2004 and have a look at who bankrolled George W. Bush.

      Among Bush’s were Goldman Sachs (who funded both, but funded Bush 4:1). Among Kerry’s were Time Warner, who funded Bush not at all.

      Now, that said, what I meant was Democratic lawmakers are generally more friendly to big media, while Republicans have generally been more friendly to finance and certain industries, generally resource extraction. You can see this in the kind of legislation that gets passed under each party’s watch (for example, the DMCA under the Democrats)

      That is an old rhetorical trick used by debators to defend and indefensible position. Say it loud and long enough it becomes true.

      What, like that bit about, what was it again, that country in the middle east? Ends with a “q”?

      The tactic you’re referring to is called “The Big Lie”. It’s very old, and used by just about everyone in politics. It’s overuse is one of the reasons people are so incredibly skeptical of anything anyone in any position of power says.

      Guess who coined the term, by the way?

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      My beef with Psar isn’t that he is inaccurate – it’s that he isn’t consistent. Up near the top of the page, he agrees that the US’ two-party system is a sham. (True.) But he then proceeds to dive right in to the Rep/Dem partisan game a few posts later.

      Psar, don’t play the game. They win, we lose.

      BTW – things any better north of the border?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Duly noted, I’ll shut up now. :)

      As for how it’s going up here? You’re talking to someone who votes of out of self-defense. That says it all, really.

  • avatar
    SomeDude

    Back to the matter at hand…

    What I fail to understand in this whole Toyota story is why so many people are concerned about Toyota’s fate. Ok, I understand the concerns of people associated with Toyota’s North American operations. I would understand Japanese people being concerned. I would understand concerns of Toyota vehicle owners, even though their cars are going to be serviced and parts supplied even if Toyota goes down. But other than these?

    I am watchning this drama to unfold from north of the border. There are no Canadian car manufacturers and, besides, I’m not Canadian by birth. Why be concerned?

    Imagine there’s no Toyota. Would this ruin yout live? Unlikely. Would this at least ruin your day? I don’t know. Companies come and go, have ups and downs. Sanyo went belly up recently and was bought by Matsushita, so what? Should I cry over this?If Toyota goes broke, another company will buy its assets and life will go on. Simple as that.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    My understanding is that the EDR data could only be read by one Toyota box in the US. How is the data being withheld from Toyota? Shouldn’t the report come out before the congressman is drawing conclusions about anything? An incomplete report isn’t very valuable.

  • avatar
    troonbop

    “why so many people are concerned about Toyota’s fate.”

    Did you even read and understand the story? It’s about government and its treatment of a private company, not the fate of that company, although that’s also of interest.
    That might interest even those who are “not Canadian by birth”.

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    SomeDude

    For me the story is important because how one national government behaves towards a corporation, can affect that corporation’s brand image and consequent ability to generate revenue, in many other markets across the globe.

    So I think it is in everyone’s interests that there is a fair and transparanet set of rules for business and that governments (there’s more than one of them!) does not get involved in partisan activities. This is probably a lot easier to achieve if governments do not have any stakeholding interests in the game itself.

    This is the big question here – is the US government, via the proxy of the NHTSA – playing fair with Toyota? There’s been more than a sniff of a witch-hunt going on and I can’t help but think that MANY other auto companies would be in a difficult position if the rulebook had been applied evenly to them. Not that I am trying to downplay their quality failings, it’s just that Toyota on a bad day still compares reasonably well with many other cos on a good day, in that area (in my humble opinion).


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