Chrysler Conspiracy: Dealership Closings Politically Motivated
There’s been a meme circulating the Internets the last couple of days that the 789 Chrysler dealerships that were suddenly closed were (1) hand selected by Barack Obama’s “car czar” and (2) overwhelmingly owned by Republican donors.
Doug Ross, who dubs it “dealergate,” seems to have been the chief initiator of the argument. He cites a Reuters report that “A lawyer for Chrysler dealers facing closure as part of the automaker’s bankruptcy
reorganization said on Tuesday he believes Chrysler executives do not support a plan to eliminate a quarter of its retail outlets.” Combine the fact that the closings were forced on the automaker by Team Obama and the fact that 92 percent of those chosen for closing donated to Republicans, and you’ve got a rootin’, tootin’ good conspiracy on your hands.
The same Reuters report, however, contains a statement from Chrysler that “:Our position is that the market can’t support the number of dealers that are out there” and “This has been our plan for more than 10 years to combine Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep under one roof.” Further, Chrysler denies Obama’s task force had any role in deciding which dealerships to close.
But they would say that, wouldn’t they? After all, Obama and his czar controls their fate.
Megan McArdle interrupted her vacation to not that while her “operating assumption is that this story is a red herring” but that “the administration should answer this; it gives the appearance of Chicago-style corruption that is going to further taint a Chrysler takeover which has already left a number of people in the business and finance community wondering how firm the rule of business law is these days.”
Nate Silver suggests the obvious explanation for the discrepancy: People who own new car dealerships tend to be Republicans.
It shouldn’t be any surprise, by the way, that car dealers tend to vote — and donate — Republican. They are usually male, they are usually older (you don’t own an auto dealership in your 20s), and they have obvious reasons to be pro-business, pro-tax cut, anti-green energy and anti-labor. Car dealerships need quite a bit of space and will tend to be located in suburban or rural areas. I can’t think of too many other occupations that are more natural fits for the Republican Party.
Using a someone crude but reasonable looking search of the FEC databases, he finds that,
88 percent of the contributions from car dealers went to Republican candidates and just 12 percent to Democratic candidates. By comparison, the list of dealers on Doug Ross’s list (which I haven’t vetted, but I assume is fine) gave 92 percent of their money to Republicans — not really a significant difference.
Steven Taylor adds a more generalized cautionary note that “numbers need context.” Indeed.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum chimes in to defend Ross et al.
If George Bush’s administration had gone down this road, I’d want someone to watch them like a hawk too. The crackpotty writing may be a source of amusement, and I have no doubt that these guys are, as usual, going to embarrass themselves in an Ahab-like quest to prove that Obama really did force Chrysler to target Republican donors — with the lapdog mainstream media covering up for him because, you know, that’s what they do. But even so, I say dig away. Even blind squirrels find nuts occasionally, and if the government is going to be running car companies, then this is exactly the kind of thing people should be watching out for. That’s what opposition parties are for.
Indeed. Of course, it would be even better if government weren’t running car companies.