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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Car Dealership Closings, Political Or Coincidence

It started with a conservative blogger doing a little digging and what he came up with could be a huge coincidence or could be the beginning of a huge scandal which the blogger, Doug Ross aka Director Blue, named "Dealergate."

Now the major media is starting to dig as well and the information is leading to some pretty strange findings.

Dealers on the closing list donated millions to Republicans, $200 for Obama
The initial pass at the list of shuttered dealers showed they had donated, in the aggregate, millions to Republican candidates and PACs and a total of $200 to Barack Obama.
(Note) That was just the "initial pass" as Ross explained, but World Net Daily did a more extensive review and although the percentage is different, the basis of Ross's conclusions is still spot on.

But WND reviewed the list of 789 closing franchises and databases of political donors and found that of dealership majority owners making contributions in the November 2008 election, less than 10 percent gifted to Democrats while 90 percent gave substantial sums to Republican candidates.

The listed franchise owners contributed at least $450,000 to Republican presidential candidates and the GOP, while only $7,970 was donated to Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign and $2,200 was given to Sen. John Edwards' campaign.

Obama received a combined total of only $450 in donations – $250 from dealer Jane Baldock in Wenatchee, Wash., and $200 from Waco, Texas, dealer Jeffrey Hunter.

Ross gives kudos to those that followed up on his original piece, which many started digging as well after reading his research and the actual statistics, showing that some of the dealerships to which the White House is forcing Chrysler to close are actually making a profit despite the hard economic times.

This work builds upon the research done by numerous parties, most notably Joey Smith. It is a follow-up to my original post, entitled "Did anti-Obama campaign contributions dictate which Chrysler dealers were shuttered?" The odds that these closings occurred without partisan bias are roughly equivalent to the odds that Jean Claude Van-Damme will grab a Best Supporting Actor Oscar next year for a remake of Terms of Endearment.

So, let me try to put the information that has come out already in some order for readers, starting with the two lists showing which Chrysler Franchise dealers are keeping their franchises and which ones are losing them, so that folks have a reference to go back to and look for themselves as the information is provided.

List of Chrysler dealerships losing their franchise (PDF)

List of Chrysler dealerships keeping their franchise (PDF)

Establishing who made the call on which Chrysler dealerships closed, Reuters reports:

Lawyer Leonard Bellavia, of Bellavia Gentile & Associates,
who represents some of the terminated dealers, said he deposed
Chrysler President Jim Press on Tuesday and came away with the
impression that Press did not support the plan.

"It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom
of terminating 25 percent of its dealers," Bellavia said. "It
really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They are under enormous
pressure from the President's automotive task force."

Read the rest of Ross's followup, go to the bottom specifically to the "What are the Odds?"

The odds portions leads right in to two pieces by Gateway Pundit, who sees this as a political move and not coincidence as well.

One piece, Gateway Pundit, titled "Shock! Big Dem Donor Group Allowed to Keep Their 6 Chrysler Dealerships Open ...Update: Their Local Competitors Eliminated!!"

Now there's this...
RLJ-McLarty-Landers is owned by three men.
One was the former Chief of Staff for President Clinton.
One is the founder of Black Entertainment Television and a huge Obama supporter.
All 6 of their Chrysler dealerships will remain open.
And, get this... Their local competitors have been eliminated!

Another piece, Gateway Pundit, titled "Hope & Change-- Car Czar Behind Chrysler Closings Married to Former Dem Party Leader."

The bloggers have provided the initial research, which is where the MSM usually come in and either whitewash, excuse, explain or take credit for discovering something "hinky", so obviously, I started looking for links to stories.

Mainstream Media articles

One I found on Fox, doesn't quite deal with the political nature of the so-called coincidence, but did bring information that even democrats seem to be worried about Obama's Auto industry task force.

Thirty-six members of Congress from both sides of the aisle told the White House last week they are troubled by the work of the Auto Task Force. The lawmakers' concerns range from exploiting auto workers to laying off dealership employees.

"Decisions being made by the Auto Task Force and in the bankruptcy proceedings in New York are more than troubling," the group, which includes Kucinich and Gohmert, wrote in a letter to Obama.

The lawmakers -- wary of shuttered car dealerships, job losses and the big unknown of a GM bankruptcy -- implored the Obama administration to slow down the restructuring process.

"Basically the task force is moving too quickly and there's kind of a double standard," a senior congressional aide told "We'll do anything to bail out the banks, but we're saying to the automobile industry you can fail. ... The people who are on (the task force) are financial guys. These aren't car guys."

The Wall Street Journal does venture in to the statistics and asks "Is the Obama administration turning Chrysler into a patronage machine?"

It must be emphasized that Ross's evidence is suggestive, not conclusive. It does not appear that anyone has yet conducted a complete analysis of Chrysler dealers' political contributions. Ross's post, published Monday, contains nine updates with supporting material from news sources and blog posts, but the whole thing ends up being rather disjoined and hard to digest.

This situation certainly bears watching. If Ross's suspicion is unwarranted, we're sure Obama's many online defenders will be along soon with data to debunk it. If he's right, though, it could complicate the bankruptcy proceedings by giving the jilted dealers a basis on which to challenge their termination. It would also demonstrate that political intervention in private business is an invitation for the most brazen sort of corruption.

Washington Examiner has also touched on the subject:

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 McLarty.

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?

One owner of a dealership is a Republican Congressman who spoke to :

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., a businessman who has owned car dealerships since 1992, learned Thursday that his Venice, Fla., Dodge dealership was among those scheduled to be terminated.

"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."

At the bottom of that piece though is something just as interesting:

While many dealers learned the news through United Parcel Service letters, Buchanan found out from a House colleague.

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., ran into Buchanan and told him, "I heard you're going to lose your Dodge franchise."

"I said, 'Oh, really?'" Buchanan recounted.

Shelby Curtsinger, the Dodge dealership's operating partner, said he was stunned by the decision because the dealership had been profitable since it opened in 1999 and typically sells about 700 vehicles a year, more than twice the sales of an average Chrysler dealership.

If sales and profits are not criteria being used to decide who stays open and who closes... what exactly is?

Note from management: It is something to be watched, but nothing to be jumping to conclusions over, we are not conspiracy theorists but it would be negligent to ignore the building evidence which suggests there could be a problem here.

As more research is done, I am sure we will find that many of the dealerships left open are also Republican contributors... that also must be factored in.