By on July 26, 2011

http://green.autoblog.com/2010/01/12/detroit-2010-pelosi-says-automaker-bailout-protected-industry/Photo Credit: Autoblog Green

It’s getting a little predictable. Go to a big car event like the North American International Auto Show or the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress and you’re going to see politicians and government officials. I suppose that’s to be expected, but to be honest, I’m a little ticked off at how our public servants get a large megaphone at those events without bearing any of the costs that you, I, or a car company would have to pay for for the same treatment.

For the past three years particularly because of the meltdown of the domestic automakers, the bailout and the US Treasury’s subsequent stakes in GM (still held) and Chrysler (divested so that Fiat could own more), but really since the beginning of time, politicians and auto shows went together. I remember, after a press conference where Wayne County (MI) executive Robert Ficano exchanged gifts with the chairman of the People’s Army owned automaker Changfeng, asking Mr. Ficano just how many Changfeng employees voted in Wayne County. During the ’08 presidential election, most of the primary candidates on the Republican side visited the show’s press preview.

That was before ‘carmaggedon’ in Detroit. Now the politicians are as thick as flies, drawn like moths to the lights of the tv crews and the chance to have a free soapbox in front of over 5,000 reporters. You should have seen them rush to preen next to Sergio Marchionne. Like I said, it ticks me off. Marchionee and Fiat had to spend big bucks to be on the floor at Cobo Hall. Rental for a large exhibit at the NAIAS must surely run into 7 figures, plus construction costs. If our esteemed ed Ed wanted to have a press conference at the Detroit show, it would have cost our corporate overlords beaucoup bux. However, when Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer want to hold a press conference at that same show, the organizers, most likely out of a sense of self-preservation, make that lecturn, microphone and CCTV available gratis.

That’s not bad enough. This past January, a congressional delegation of more than two dozen members of congress and over a dozen support personnel, led by then Speaker Pelosi and including, it should be pointed out, members of the Michigan delegation like representatives Gary Peters, Sander Levin, Fred Upton, Pete Hoekstra, and John Dingell as well as senators Levin, Stabenow visited Detroit for the NAIAS. The government accountability group Judicial Watch filed a Freedom Of Information Act request for the cost of that delegation. It turns out that you and I paid over $34,000 for travel, food, ground transportation in Michigan, and incidentals so that Mrs. Pelosi and her colleagues could get that free microphone [Ed: for that amount, we could have covered that show]. To be sure, some of that money stayed in Detroit. Metro Cars, the livery service, and Fishbone’s restaurant, along with the Old Shillelagh, a bar, did okay. They spent $128.77 on hospitality room supplies like Doritos, Cheetos and Coke. Fourteen hotel rooms were booked at $275/night.

Pelosi had asked for military jets, but that was turned down and the delegation flew commercial which cost $24K, except for the congressional physician and some military support staff. At the show, one member of the delegation, I think it was Steve LaTourette from Ohio, told me that he drove himself, in his own car, which as car enthusiasts I suppose we should salute. A request for reimbursement for $228 for use of a personal car was submitted.

At the time, Pelosi’s office explained the need for the trip in the following terms:

Our bipartisan delegation will visit Detroit to see first-hand the innovative technologies the industry is investing in to create the jobs of the future and to ensure our national competitiveness,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “We go to Detroit with our commitment to continue to preserve our manufacturing base, which is essential to our economic and national security

In the wake of Judicial Watch’s investigation, Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman, defended the trip.

“Congress made an historic commitment to the auto industry to drive innovation and modernization, and to save hundreds of thousands of jobs.It was critical that taxpayer dollars received proper oversight and the bipartisan visit was critical to that process.”

You can read the complete FOIA response here.

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38 Comments on “Congress Does The Detroit Auto Show, Taxpayers Foot The Bill...”


  • avatar

    This is something politicians do in every industry – unfortunately Judicial Watch didn’t see fit to make similar inquiries when Republican Duke Cunningham was taking bribes and doing similar junkets for defense-related issues. It’s just the way the system works. Politicians get greased – no matter where you live. It just seems to bother people when it’s the politicians from the other side getting the grease.

    • 0 avatar

      Sigh. Did I use the word Democrat or Republican in this post? See it anywhere? Notice how I pointed out that Upton and Hoeskstra, Republicans, were there? That was deliberate, to have balance and keep it non partisan.

      The waste of our money by and entitled attitude of our elected officials and public employees should be a matter of concern no matter which side of the aisle you sit on, shouldn’t it?

      Or are you for having our elected officials waste more of our money on dog and pony shows and having unaccountable public employees treat us like indentured servants? I suppose if your political party is gung ho for more government and more public employees showing up in private sector events on the public’s dime, you might see this as partisan.

      I’m just pissed off that Pelosi and LaHood (a registered Republican, btw) get the microphone and stage for free when TTAC or Cars In Depth would have to pay for it.

      Why should politicians and government employees get a free mic?

      A great American once said, “I paid for this microphone!” and he did. Pelosi, and LaHood, and Rogers and Upton (1 Dem, 3 Reps, happy now?) didn’t pay for theirs.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        That was deliberate, to have balance and keep it non partisan.

        Judicial Watch was formed by Larry Klayman, whose favorite hobby during the 90′s was suing the Clinton administration. Most of their funding comes from the Scaifes: http://mediamattersaction.org/transparency/organization/Judicial_Watch/funders

        You are so hyperpoliticized that it’s ridiculous. Either you are extremely naive or else you are disingenuous beyond belief. If you want to pretend to be neutral, then at least have the decency to begin with a neutral source.

      • 0 avatar

        What could be a more impartial source than the original government documents? This was the result of a FOIA request. The reason for the request or why it was requested or by whom is completely irrelevant to this article. I neither hid that Judicial Watch (which went after the Bush administration more than once, btw) made the request nor did I quote them. Ed changed the link from their home page to the specific article. Was the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press acting in a hyperpoliticized manner when they ran similar articles and similar links? When I started writing this article, I didn’t even know that Judicial Watch was involved. I read about it at Jalopnik (though they neglected to provide a link or a source). Is Ray Wert now a wingnut? That’ll be a surprise to Nick Denton and Jennifer Granholm, his current and previous boss, both left of center. I’d read two or three accounts before I even saw the words Judicial Watch. You can ask Ed, I’ve been bitching about this stuff since I found that I couldn’t have a press conference for Cars In Depth at the NAIAS because of the expense.

        Again, why should Pelosi et al get a free stage and microphone when it would cost you or me a lot of money? The trip in general was a huge waste of money. Nothing was accomplished. They fly in, do a photo op, a presser and then a nice meal and a luxury hotel room on the public’s dime. At least most of the Michigan delegation slept in their own homes. I spoke to Gary Peters, who agreed that it was mostly a waste of time, that the only value was getting the reps from non automotive states a bit more educated about the industry. Some of them did look genuinely interested, Sens. Carper and Corker, for example. Carper brought his son and they sounded like car guys. He’s a Democrat by the way. Signed my autograph bag too.

        It appears from here that you’re the one who is making this partisan and hyperpolitical. This was a news story with a little bit of non-political commentary about having to pay for what they get for free. It appears that you are so in love with big government that any critique of government at all will be seen as partisan from your perspective.

        I just wonder why are the Scaifes and the Koch brothers such boogeymen when George Soros and Peter Lewis are just ducky? It was leftist Herbert Marcuse who advocated free speech for thee but not for me.

        BTW, while at the NAIAS, following up on a TTAC article that I did on his campaign’s attack on Dr. Rob Steele for having a car collection (also non-partisan, btw), I asked John Dingell if it was appropriate for him to call his opponent a “rich doctor” when he himself has become a multimillionaire while serving in Congress. Dingell angrily refused to answer the question. Literally waving me away, flailing his arms, scowling at me. Hell, I didn’t even get to ask about his wife, the lucky sperm club member, a Fisher Body heiress. That’s never happened with a business executive. Compare Dingell losing it disprespectfully to Bob Lutz’s casual response to Farago asking him if his pension was bankruptcy proof.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        What could be a more impartial source than the original government documents?

        Give me a break. You went to a right-wing source, which chooses the topics that it “investigates” rather selectively, and then basically relayed their message for them.

        I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t go pushing the message of the Communist Party or the UAW local in the same fashion. You have a line that you want to sell, and you’re just looking for ways to sell it.

      • 0 avatar

        Unlike you, I don’t associate the UAW with communists. Walter Reuther fought fiercely to keep communists and their influence out of the UAW. Like I said, my original source was Jalopnik. They didn’t provide a link so I searched and found the DetNews article that I linked to. That’s when I found out about Judicial Watch’s involvement. But I ignored them and went straight to the pdf of the FOIA response, from the link at the DetNews. I have no idea what Judicial Watch thinks on the matter.

        If you think that I’m carrying water for them by publicizing documents the public has a right to see, just because I don’t like politicians and public employees getting perks, you’re mistaken.

        Actually, when I do a story that involves the UAW I typically check their web site to see if they have anything on the matter. The UAW is a labor union for which I have some admiration, unlike the tax feeding parasite thugs of SEIU and AFSCME.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Pch, does it ever make you ashamed to have to knee-jerk defend your side all the time? Ronnie wasn’t being partisan, he was just pointing out facts that you find uncomforable, and they are facts too, there’s no disputing that things happened just the way Ronnie wrote. Facts are facts, you always seem to say something like that when you find numbers to cherry pick to refute something you don’t agree with.

        Both sides are guilty of abusing their power, it just happens that your side is worse. Is there any Democrat you would criticize? Or would you just go robot and spout the party line to defend the most egregious offenders. You need to begin the think for yourself rather than go into the default attack Republican mode automatically. You’re like a little kid pointing fingers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Unlike you, I don’t associate the UAW with communists.

        Er, I didn’t associate the UAW with communists. I associated you with your inability to be impartial.

        You surround yourself with biased sources, yet you pretend to be neutral. You aren’t echoing the positions of your opponents, but just those of those whom you favor. If the story had put the Republicans front and center, instead of the Democrats, then both Judicial Watch and you would have skipped it.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        @ PCH,

        “You have a line that you want to sell, and you’re just looking for ways to sell it.”

        Teapot. Kettle.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        does it ever make you ashamed to have to knee-jerk defend your side all the time?

        I wasn’t defending anyone. I was noting the author’s complete inability to be impartial. (I’ve also noted his lousy factchecking skills on a number of occasions, which makes all of his work suspect.)

        This isn’t National Review, and he isn’t Jonah Goldberg. Robert Farago worked hard to build this site, and it’s a shame to see this. I didn’t always agree with him, but at least he made an effort to be accurate and wasn’t just a predictable mouthpiece for any particular movement.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        @ PCH,

        “at least he made an effort to be accurate and wasn’t just a predictable mouthpiece for any particular movement.”

        Again, the irony!

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Again, the irony!

        Irony is a fun word. But it would be better if you used it properly.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Irony is lost on him. And by the way, he did use it correctly.

      • 0 avatar

        Umm Ronnie – let’s see – you are a self-declared conservative. You always sell the conservative line here. You regularly play politics on what should be a blog about cars and instead is often a megaphone for your right wing beliefs. The auto bailouts were started by BUSH – you know the republican? Details like that often escape your posts. THIS post may not have been overtly political but it’s what you do when you want to make a political point. I think most people that visit this blog know you’re political bias and hopefully they will take it into account when they read the opinions you pass off as facts.

        That all said – my point is still valid. You’re complaining about something that goes on by both sides and has for thousands of years in every type of government on the planet. It’s like complaining about the sky being blue. You can’t change it and when your side was in power under Bush it went on in spades. Funny I can’t find any references to such things by you then??????

    • 0 avatar
      photog02

      @Ronnie S.: Here here! I am a third party member; one of those people who throw their vote away every election cycle. It is good to see someone present something so clearly and simply that people from both persuasions assume it is targeting their own people. You are dead on target.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m going to cut this conversation off right there. The piece is very clearly about a BIPARTISAN delegation. You are free to point out factual errors or argue that this isn’t news, but I don’t have to run my editorial decisions past you and every other crusader out there trying to save TTAC from its biases. I’d also prefer that our commenters generally avoid stoking partisan animus… there’s enough of that elsewhere on the web.

      If you don’t like the piece, you don’t have to comment on it, and if something really bothers you about the tone or the direction of the site, our inbox is always open to you. And I certainly hope that even if you do read a story or two at TTAC that you don’t agree with, you’ll still come back the next day with the expectation that you’ll learn something new or find an engaging conversation to join. I can’t promise to make everyone happy all the time… that’s all I got.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, with just about everyone feeling pinched for money these days, the sight of these people is just slightly nauseating — regardless of party affiliation.

    I’m not even sure these people “saved” that many union jobs; and they surely did spend a ton and a half of money doing it. . . which came from somewhere.

    But, I disagree with you about the point here. The point isn’t who paid for the microphone; that’s almost trivial. The point is that these people are all showing up here to make sure that they get the political credit (read: contributions from both unions and corporations) for having spread a bunch of taxpayer money around.

    They want to keep reminding Michigan voters of all the good things that they did for them, just like Robert Byrd did in West Virginia and Ted Stevens in Alaska.

    I recall the Gingrich Republican’s “Contract with America” from 1994. One of its features was term limits for Congressmen and Senators, which, of course, the Establishment derided with a bunch mostly specious arguments. What I don’t recall is anyone making the argument for term limits that it would diminish the power of special interests of all kinds, because a substantial number of sitting representatives would have no interest in getting campaign contributions because they could not run for re-election.

    • 0 avatar
      Extra Credit

      @ DC Bruce – If you choose to further extrapolate the collective cynicism toward political boondoggles one degree further, there would be continued interest in getting campaign contributions for their “chosen” replacement. These contributions would ensure that the outgoing representative could continue to suck on the public teet in their newly established role as independent consultant.

      Of course, I could be wrong. The problem with politicians is that they make this stuff too easy to predict. :)

    • 0 avatar

      I think term limits are a mistake and disagree with my fellow conservatives on that topic. Term limits got Michigan Jennifer Granholm instead of John Engler. Of course they also meant that we were rid of her too. On the legislative side I want my representatives to know how the system works. I don’t think any of us, though, are served by folks like John Dingell and the Levins who apparently believe in hereditary privilege (and yes, there are Republican families that do the same) and possibly droit de seigneur (I kid, I kid).

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Ronnie, the FOunding Fathers never intended there to be a political class in this country. There vision was that of part time civilian legislators who made their mark in the private sector, went into politics for a term or two, then went back to private life. They maybe should have forseen what would happen but I don’t think it ever occured to them that dishonorable men would be able to thrive and make careers of government.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        They maybe should have forseen what would happen but I don’t think it ever occured to them that dishonorable men would be able to thrive and make careers of government.

        Then, with all due respect, they were either naive or stupid, if not both, to predicate a political system that depends on the participation of only the “right” kind of people.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    For those in agreement with Pelosi and her entourage on this visit, please explain to me the ROI on this trip she took to Detroit. I would be interested in hearing someone defend the use of tax dollars for what appears to be nothing but a boondoggle.

    We’re in austere times, we can’t get a debt ceiling/budget passed, and Nancy is heading off to a car show?

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      They can’t defend it but they also can’t admit that their side is in the wrong. That’s the great problem with liberalism, it strips away the ability to think critically.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        They can’t defend it but they also can’t admit that their side is in the wrong

        The problem with you black-and-white thinkers is that you assume that there are only two sides, and that all of us have chosen one.

        This will be hard for you to fathom, given your mindset, but Nancy Pelosi isn’t on my “side.” My comments have nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi.

        I will rephrase — if the story was exactly the same except that John Boehner had led the entourage, then Judicial Watch would have completely ignored it, and Mr. Schrieber would have either not known about it or else would have also skipped it.

        They aren’t complaining about this because of what it was, but because of the party affiliation of who did it. And it’s a shame to see TTAC allow itself to be played so uncritically, when the whole purpose of this site was to help the readership to distinguish between relevant information and PR bilge.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        “the whole purpose of this site was to help the readership to distinguish between relevant information and PR bilge.”

        PR bilge? You mean like Pelosi’s wasteful trip to Detroit. I’m sorry that you can’t see it for what it is, and that you’re thought process is more concerned about a ‘what if’ scenario as opposed to ‘what is’.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’d like to see you admit sometime that the liberal, progressive position on something is wrong.

        This is a website about cars and the auto industry. Why you and those like you feel the compulsion to turn it into a constant referendum on your political views, I don’t know, but I don’t.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Pot meet kettle, you have a major problem with bringing ideology into everything. Your problem is that you can write something completely saturated with youe particular world view and you are amazed than any reasonable person could disagree with you. Ronnie’s article was about politicians wasting public money at the auto show. That’s wrong no matter how you look at it or who it is, why can’t you admit that? I would gladly call out any Republican who misbehaves, why can’t you do the same for your bretheren?

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    This is silly. It’s all chicken feed next to what the politicians of both parties do to make sure that their constituencies get fed at the Pentagon’s trough. This has had the impact of spreading all military manufacturing across as many states as possible instead of being setup the most efficiently as well as providing the politicians with direct money and perks from the contractors. Conservatives will scream about anything to do with the auto bailouts but few ever want to seem to be against military spending.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Sorry dry, I put this reply under your comment when I was trying to attach it to one above yours.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      +1

      While this trip may well be a waste of taxpayer money, it’s not worth focusing energy on as it is not material in the big scheme of things. You can’t boil the ocean, so it is important to focus effort on the top problems, rather than try to correct everything. The only reason to bother cutting a trip like this is because the optics are poor.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I don’t want my elected officials to spend all of their time in DC. It’s important to get out and get a hands on view of whats happening in the country, to talk to the people who are deeply involved, and to become educated on all aspects of a situation before proposing legislation to manage it.

    I see no problem with Government officials not paying for microphone time either. If the organizers of the NAIAS had charged them it would have made more of an impact on taxpayers, by offering it free of charge the organizers just take less of a profit. I have no problem with the Government getting things for free.

    As far as the costs of the delegation and the real reasons for a visit, there might be some cause for concern there. If the trip was so that the members of congress could become better educated about what’s happening in the auto industry, it was money well spent. If it was for a photo op, it should come out of campaign funds, at least partially.

    Regarding the actual travel costs, roughly 36 people flying for $667 each round trip seems a bit high, I’m sure if they had it up Kayak they could have gotten some better rates.

    Every corporation or news outlet that sent people to NAIAS paid for their travel and lodging, and likely provided a per diem, so I have no real issue with the government paying for officials to visit the show on business. I would like to see some accountability regarding how much was spent though. As far as the hotel room goes, $275 per night might not be outrageous in the middle of a major city during the biggest convention of the year. A hospitality room with basic junk food and beverages for a total of around $100 isn’t outrageous either. Had the taxpayers been on the hook for $1,000 per night suites and a green room filled with caviar, Wagyu beef, and champagne, it would be a different story. As it is, it sounds like the congressional delegation traveled somewhat economically.

  • avatar
    ghentForever

    I am sorry to say this Ronnie, but you just have sour grapes!

  • avatar
    obruni

    only $34,000 for a delegation of 24 Congressmen and their support staff, and that includes airfare?

    OMG, cue selective outrage.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    All I can tell you is that everytime I spy an image of Nancy Pelosi I go looking for a 2″x 4″. It’s like Frau Blucher!

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      All I can tell you is that everytime I spy an image of Nancy Pelosi I go looking for a 2″x 4″.

      And that’s exactly why the author chose to write this piece. He wants to turn it into a story about Nancy Pelosi, even though she was only one of many who took the trip. (As if it’s just shocking that representatives from Michigan and members of the Congressional Auto Caucus would attend the country’s largest auto show.)


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