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Dealergate: Does Obama have a dealer hit list?

The empire strikes back

Is the Obama administration punishing Chrysler dealers for their politics? A preliminary analysis by Doug Ross suggests that could be the case.

There were too many things about the selection of dealerships to be closed that just didn’t add up. Some of the dealers chosen to be terminated were among the more successful outlets in the Chrysler dealership network, and many of them had been loyal Chrysler and Dodge agents who had maintained an excellent working relationship with the Detroit automaker for decades.

Some dealers who got a thumbs down from Obama’s automotive panel told compelling stories about their situations that raised doubts about the process of selecting them for closing. One example, a dealership in Alvin, Texas, had increased its new car sales by 50% in the first four months of 2009, while other MOPAR dealers’ sales were in the tank. Another in Melbourne, Florida, had, at Chrysler’s insistence, totally renovated its facility financed by incurring millions of dollars of debt in the form of a bank mortgage. The are just two of many stories which highlight the incongruities to be found on the list of dealerships not deemed worthy to remain in operation.

Such reports led Ross to investigate whether there were any political motivations behind the closings. He started with the list of Chrysler and Dodge dealerships which will be closed as a result of the government-mandated Chrysler bankruptcy plan. Then he marked those dealers whose names appeared more than once in the list. Next, he checked which ones contributed to political campaigns. Every one of them had donated almost exclusively to Republican candidates. Ross found only one dealer on the closing list who had contributed to the Obama campaign, a $200 donor in Waco, Texas.

Eric Dondero recognizes some of the dealers’ names on the hit list:

“Vern Buchanan is a Republican Congressman from the Tampa Bay area. Robert Archer is the son of former Republican Congressman Bill Archer. John Culberson, a libertarian-leaning Conservative, is now the Congressman for that West Houston District. He was heavily supported in his election efforts by the Archers Family.”

“Additionally, James Crowley, owner of a Chrysler Dealership in Escondido, California is on the list to be closed. Crowley is a big backer of libertarian-leaning Republican Cong. John Campbell of Orange County.”

The list is heavy with influential Republicans and libertarians. Another name on the list is Ray Huffines, who owns a large dealerhsip in the Metro-Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The Huffines family have been major contributors to Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) over the years.

Chrysler maintains that “sales volume, customer service scores, local market share and average household income in the immediate area” were among the factors the company considered to determine which dealerships should be closed. However:

“In fact, there may have been other criteria involved: politics may have played a part. If this data can be validated, it would appear to be further proof that the Obama administration is willing to step over any line to advance its agenda.”

Shades of the Nixon enemies list, we first saw signs that Obama wasn’t above playing hardball with his political opponents during the active campaign. Even though he won, Obama and his team have remained in campaign mode to this very day. Obama demonstrated for all to see that he had no qualms about leaning heavily on radio and television stations which aired ads depicting him in an unfavorable light. Now he appears to be taking the payback thing a big step further by punishing car dealers who donated to the other side. The message Emperor Barack I is sending is a chilling one for those who cherish America’s long and honored tradition of liberty.

- JP

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