Furor grows over partisan car dealer closings
By: Mark Tapscott
Editorial Page Editor
05/27/09 3:37 PM EDT
Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically
targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Repubicans. 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
The basic issue raised here is this: How do we account for the fact millions of
dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by
the government, but only one has been found so far that is being closed that
contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?
Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan learned from a House colleague that his Venice,
Florida, dealership is on the hit list. Buchanan also has a Nissan franchise
paired with the Chrysler facility in Venice.
"It's an outrage. It's not about me. I'm going to be fine," said Buchanan, the
dealership's majority owner. "You're talking over 100,000 jobs. We're supposed
to be in the business of creating jobs, not killing jobs," Buchanan told News
10, a local Florida television station.
Buchanan, who succeeded former Rep. Katharine Harris in 2006, reportedly learned
of his dealership's termination from Rep.Candace Miller, R-MI. Buchanan owns a
total of 23 dealerships in Florida and North Carolina.
Also fueling the controversy is the fact the RLJ-McCarty-Landers chain of
Arkansas and Missouri dealerships aren't being closed, but many of their local
competitors are being eliminated. Go here for a detailed look at this situation.
McClarty is the former Clinton senior aide. The "J" is Robert Johnson, founder
of the Black Entertainment Television, a heavy Democratic contributor.
A lawyer representing a group of Chrysler dealers who are on the hit list
deposed senior Chrysler executives and later told Reuters that he believes the
closings have been forced on the company by the White House.
"It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25
percent of its dealers. It really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They are under
enormous pressure from the President's automotive task force," said attorney
RedState.com's Josh Painter has a useful roundup of what has been found so far
by a growing number of bloggers digging into what could be a very big story
indeed. Also, see my column on this issue and how it fits into the larger
context dubbed by the Examiner's Michael Barone as "gangster government."
As part of Chrysler's bankruptcy agreement with the White House, the company
plans to close roughly a quarter of its 3,200 dealerships. Lists of the
dealerships being cut and those retaining their Chrysler franchises can be found
here in pdf format. Many dealers contend the criteria being used to determine
which dealerships survive is not clear and that many of those that are being
closed in fact are profitable businesses, despite the current recession.