I was reading more about the story this morning about supporters of Hatfield GMC/Chrysler in Redlands coming out to save a dealership that's been operating there since 1913 -- when I ran across an editorial in the Washington Examiner called "Furor grows over partisan car dealer closings."
I had heard something about this earlier in the week and figured it would go away, as it seemed a little far-fetched and conspiracy-theory paranoia-ish at first blush. The Obama administration shutting down right-leaning Chrysler/GM dealerships? ('aren't all car dealerships right-leaning?' flashed through my head.)
But I'm giving this a bit of a closer look this morning because, as Mark Tapscott writes, the story's "gathering some steam:"
Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Republicans. What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the Right side of the Blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership chain partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty.
What? The "Obama friendly" car dealerships get the benefits of their competitors being knocked out of the game?
I found a little bit more here, as one blogger ran down the whole list and did an analysis of public campaign contribution records.
To quickly review the situation, I took all dealer owners whose names appeared more than once in the list. And, of those who contributed to political campaigns, every single one had donated almost exclusively to GOP candidates. While this isn't an exhaustive review, it does have some ominous implications if it can be verified.
It goes on with this list:
Consider the partial list of Chrysler dealership owners, listed below. You'll notice that all were opponents of Barack Obama, most through sponsorship of GOP candidates and organizations, but a handful through Barack's Democrat rivals (Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in 2008, for example).
• Vernon G. Buchanan: $147,450 to GOP candidates and organizations • Wallace D. Alley and Family: $4,500 to GOP. • Robert Archer: $4,600 to GOP and conservative causes. • Homer S. Higginbotham and Family: $2950 to GOP. • James Auffenberg and Family: $28,000 to GOP; $6,000 to one Democrat candidate. • Michael Maroone and Family: $60,000 to GOP; $8,500 to two Democrat candidates. • Jerome Fader: $6,500 to Democrats; $2,500 to Independent Joe Lieberman. • Stephen Fay and Family: $13,500 to GOP. • William Numrich: $20,000 to GOP. • Robert Carver: $10,000 to Democrats including $1,950 to Hillary Clinton, nothing to Barack Obama. • Robert and Linda Rohrman: $24,000 to GOP. • Frank Boucher, Jr. and Family: $18,000 to GOP, $1,000 to one Democrat candidate. • Scott Bossier: $4,300 to GOP. • Todd Reardon: $17,000 to GOP; $2,000 to one Democrat candidate. • Russ Darrow and Family: $78,000 to GOP. • Bradford Deery and Family: $24,700 to GOP. • Charles Gabus and Family: $30,000 to GOP. • Brian Smith: $15,500 to GOP. • Michael Schlossman: $14,000 to GOP; $14,000 to three Democrats ($12,500 to Sen. Russ Feingold). • Don Hill: $11,000 to GOP; $12,800 to conservative incumbent Rep. Heath Shuler. • Don Miller: $2,000 to GOP; $1,000 to Feingold. • Eddie Cordes: $2,150 to GOP. • Robert Edwards: $1,100 to GOP. • James Crowley: $19,100 to GOP. • Stanley Graff: $2,200 to John Edwards (2008 Presidential Run); $500 to GOP. • John Stewart: $10,500 to GOP. • John Fitzgerald and Family: $4,600 to John McCain (2008); $2,000 to Hillary Clinton (2008); nothing to Barack Obama. • William Churchill and Family: $3,500 to GOP. • Thomas Ganley: $9.450 to GOP. • Gary Miller: $20,000 to GOP. • Kevin and Gene Beltz: $18,500 to GOP. • Arthur Grayson: $14,000 to GOP. • Eric Grubbs and Family: $26,000 to GOP. • Michael Leep and Family: $19,500 to GOP; $4,800 to three Democrats including Sen. Evan Bayh. • Harry Green, Jr.: $10,000 to GOP. • Ronald Hoover: $5,250 to GOP. • Ray Huffines and Family: $18,500 to GOP. • John O. Stevenson: $1,500 to GOP. • James Marsh: $8,200 to GOP. • Max Pearson and Family: $112,000 to GOP.
I have thus far found only a single Obama donor (and a minor one at that: $200 from Jeffrey Hunter of Waco, Texas) on the closing list.
I tried to find some balance to this story online but am, so far, at a lbit of a loss. I DO think maybe car dealers in general lean to the right, and found at least one piece online that echoed that sentiment -- the article titled "Be careful with Chrysler closure "hit list" claims:"
One more point about the political correlation: It may just be that more Republican-leaning businessmen than Democrat-leaning ones gravitate toward the car dealership business to begin with, which could explain the apparent disproportionate partisan impact.
In any case, it’s too early to start painting them all as victims of a politically motivated witch hunt.
Yeah, probably more car dealers lean to the right than to the left. In fact the Washington Examiner opinion piece that got me started on all this continues to say:
The Auto Prophet - an anonymous engineer working for one of the Detroit automakers - is skeptical of the suggestion that political considerations are playing a role in White House car czar decisions on which Chrysler dealers are to be shuttered.
A more likely explanation is simply the fact that more Chrysler dealers in general are likely to be Republican contributors, which would mean more of the closed dealers would be seen to be GOP supporters than Democrat supporters: "My hypothesis is that Chrysler dealers, being small businessmen, are more likely to donate to Republicans than Democrats, for predictable reasons. Like any small businessmen, car dealers want lower taxes, a lower minimum wage, fewer regulations, etc."
But , two things. First, this editorial says "..even if we accept the proposition that most car dealers are more likely to be Republican than Democratic donors, there would still be a "disparate impact" from closings on one class of dealers, compared to the other. When the federal courts see a disparate impact on racial groups, the policy or action in question is typically held to be inappropriate."
And another point: because no one has said what the criteria is for which are closed and which are not, and it appears that many of the targeted dealerships ARE profitable, people are going to look for this kind of stuff. Political favors, bias, etc. The only way to put this whole thing to rest would be to allow independent observers to assess what the criteria are, and how they were applied.
Here's a hard left turn for laugh or two on the subject; it reminds me of this SNL sketch in April poking fun at the slippery slope of a President, during a bailout, getting involved in the private sector.
But back to this business of partisan car dealers. I don't think this is the last we've heard of this. But, the more we hear about it, does it make it necessarily ... more true? Until there's some explanation for who is on the list, and who is not, and why, we won't know more than what we can gather based on the pattern the closures cast. And based on what's out there so far, it doesn't reflect well on the automotive industry or the Obama administration.
Editor's Embedded Video: