Congressmen: Were Conservative Car Dealers Targeted for GM Closures?
Two Congressmen are asking the Treasury Department if it inappropriately scrutinized conservative-owned businesses the same way it targeted Tea Party groups filing for tax-exempt status.
Republicans Mike Kelly (PA-03) and Jim Renacci (OH-16) circulated a letter Thursday requesting Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to release documents detailing the process and methodology the Automotive Task Force used to shut down General Motors dealerships in 2009 during the automotive industry crisis.
Renacci's Northeast Ohio Chevrolet dealership was closed in 2010 after losing a battle with General Motors. Congress loaned General Motors $50 billion in 2009 after GM declared bankruptcy, which resulted in the federal government owning a majority share of the company. Roughly 2000 dealerships received "wind-down" agreements, and while hundreds were able to survive an exhaustive arbitration process, Renacci-Doraty Chevrolet in Wadsworth did not. Renacci, then a Congressional candidate challenging incumbent John Boccieri, placed the blame squarely on President Obama.
“I jumped into the campaign because of what happened to the car business,” Renacci said in 2010. “This is another example of the devastation of this administration’s massive government intrusion into the private sector.” He went on to describe the government takeover of GM as "the Obama Administration dictating to small-business owners whether they can continue to operate privately owned businesses."
Mike Kelly has a similar story. He decided to run for Congress when it was announced that Obama's Automotive Task Force slated Wayland Chevrolet in Butler, Pennsylvania for closure. The dealership was started by Kelly's father in 1953.
Now that it has been confirmed that the Treasury Department unfairly profiled conservatives around that time, the Congressmen are wondering if that could have been a factor in the selection of certain dealerships for closure.
The IRS scandal "raises serious questions about past decisions made by the [Treasury] Department regarding auto dealership closures that occurred in 2008 and 2009," reads the letter. "We formally request that the Treasury Department provide all e-mails, phone records, notes, memoranda, reports, and other communications regarding the decision-making process for dealership closures from the Automotive Task Force headed by Car Czars Steve Rattner and Ron Bloom."
The letter also notes that while the Automotive Task Force claimed to have objectively evaluated each dealership, a Special Inspector General Report found that there was "little or no documentation" that proves objective criteria were used.
"At the heart of this request," the letter concludes, "is the obligation we have to the American people to ensure that political profiling has not been a systemic issue within this administration."
Full letter here: