As part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Chrysler is terminating one-fourth of its franchises – but some say its catalog of doomed dealerships looks more like a hit list that specifically seeks to put Republican donors out of business.
Chrysler will now be eligible for up to $8 billion in taxpayer-funded federal aid. The federal government has already provided $8.58 billion to Chrysler and Chrysler Holding between the months of January and May of this year. The Treasury also loaned $1.5 billion to the automaker’s lending arm in January.
President Obama has said the bankruptcy will give the company “a new lease on life,” after his administration spearheaded a plan requiring the company sell to Italian automaker Fiat. Chrysler’s stronger operations will be owned by Fiat, labor and the U.S. and Canadian governments. The sale could close as early as this Friday.
Obama said the bankruptcy would be a “quick” and “efficient” step toward Chrysler’s “survival.”
“The necessary steps have been taken to give one of America’s most storied automakers, Chrysler, a new lease on life,” Obama said. “This is not a sign of weakness.”
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.
Many of the majority owners who donated to Republican campaigns last year also contributed additional thousands to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2004 and to help elect GOP representatives.
Rep. Vernon Buchanan, R-Fla.
The first dealership on Chrysler’s list of facilities marked for termination by June 9 is located in Venice, Fla., and belongs to Republican Rep. Vernon G. Buchanan.
Buchanan gave $2,300 to John McCain in 2008 and has contributed nearly $150,000 to GOP candidates and organizations since 2007. He discovered that his location was scheduled for closure when he crossed paths with Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich.
According to the Associated Press, Miller told Buchanan, “I heard you’re going to lose your Dodge franchise.”
“Oh, really?” Buchanan said in a state of surprise.
The dealership’s operating partner, Shelby Curtsinger, said he was astonished by Chrysler’s decision because the location has been profitable – selling more than twice the stock of an average Chrysler dealership every year.
Houston dealer Robert Archer is one of 330 people contesting Chrysler’s decision to close their locations. He donated $1,000 to National Republican Congressional Committee and $500 to Americans for a Republican Majority.
Archer told the New York Times he ordered 700 new vehicles and $1.7 million in new parts after Chrysler told him he could survive unless he stocked more cars. He sacrificed his profits to help the company survive.
Now he is set to lose his franchise.
Other GOP contributors include Michael Maroone, a dealer in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He gave $20,000 to the Florida Republican Party, $12,700 to the Republican National Committee and $2,300 to presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Likewise, Menomonee Falls, Wis., dealer Russ Darrow and his family gave $19,000 to the Republican National Committee, $6,029 to the Wisconsin Republican Party, $2,300 to John McCain and $1,000 to Rudy Giuliani. Bedford, Texas, dealer Eric Grubbs gifted $11,500 to Mike Huckabee, $4,600 to Rudy Giuliani, $6,500 to Texas Republican Congressional Committee, $1,085 to the RNC and $500 to National Republican Congressional Committee. Midlothian, Va., dealer Max Pearson donated $18,000 to National Republican Senatorial Committee, $6,900 to the RNC, $6,900 to John McCain, $3,600 to Virginia Republican Party and $1,000 to National Republican Congressional Committee.
The list continues with more than 60 political donors who are scheduled to lose their franchises – many of whom gave thousands of dollars to Republican candidates – and only seven dealers who contributed a total of less than $12,000 to the Democratic Party and its candidates.
Blogger Doug Ross reviewed patterns on the closure list and noticed the unmistakable trend.
“I took all dealer owners whose names appeared more than once on the list,” he wrote. “And, of those who contributed to political campaigns, every single one had donated almost exclusively to GOP candidates.”
With 2,392 Chrysler dealerships remaining, some bloggers claim to have already begun the exhaustive process of checking each majority owner to determine whether Chrysler has been more merciful toward those who donate to Democrats while simultaneously giving walking papers to Republican contributors.
Chrysler has not responded to WND’s requests for comment. The company claims it evaluated the dealerships based on raw sales volume, location, market, history of experience and market share. According to the company’s bankruptcy court filing, the 789 dealerships listed for closure “lack the operational, market, facility and linemaker characteristics necessary to best contribute to the ongoing dealer network under current or future ownership.”
Dealer Jim Anderer told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto he doesn’t understand why Chrysler is shutting down his Long Island dealership because he claims his dealership is quite profitable – with sales volume ranking in the top 2 percent.
Asked why he believes the company targeted him, Anderer said, “They won’t tell us. They seem to be running for cover right now because they won’t give us a solid explanation. They come up with all these reasons, but none of them seem to make sense.”
He continued, “This is insanity. The government is stealing my business. And they’re telling me there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Anderer said Chrysler claims it wants to combine its stores or that dealers cost the manufacturer money to stay in business.
“In the dealers that they cut, there seems to be no cohesive way that they did it,” he said. “There was no process that you could put your finger on and say, ‘Hey, we cut 25 percent of the lowest performing dealers.’ They didn’t do that. Nobody will give us a real clear explanation of the formula that they came up with.”
An anonymous employee affected by the dealership closings blogged at Cars.com:
Obama visits Chrysler plant in Michigan one year before bankruptcy (photo: Barack Obama campaign)
“This isn’t about business. It’s about politics and control. My dealership is in the top 125 out of the 3,500-plus dealerships nationwide … yet we are on the list. We are not small nor are we rural. We are in a large major metropolitan area. Our new vehicle inventory alone is well over $4.0 million. Is that small?”
The employee continued, “This is so much more than ‘just business.’ This is about control and power by our present administration in Washington. An administration that will stop at nothing to bring complete socialism to this once great country. Wake up people or get in line now to ‘drink the Kool-Aid.'”
Chrysler’s bankruptcy court review process began May 14 and is scheduled to end by June 9. According to a May 14 Chrysler memo, dealers learned of their fate via UPS letters arriving earlier this month. A Senate committee is conducting hearings this week as dealers file their requests to block their termination.
George C. Joseph, owner of Sunshine Dodge-Isuzu in Melbourne Fla., has sent out his plea to several online media organizations, including WND.
Joseph said his family paid for his franchise 35 years ago and employs more than 50 people. The company is active in the community and the local chamber of commerce, and he claims it is financially profitable.
“On Thursday, May 14, 2009 I was notified that my Dodge franchise, that we purchased, will be taken away from my family on June 9, 2009 without compensation and given to another dealer at no cost to them,” Joseph wrote. “My new vehicle inventory consists of 125 vehicles with a financed balance of 3 million dollars. This inventory becomes impossible to sell with no factory incentives beyond June 9, 2009.”
He said that without the franchise his family can no longer sell Dodge inventory as “new” or conduct any service warranty work. Joseph wrote that his parts inventory – worth $300,000 – is now practically worthless because Chrysler will not be required to buy vehicles, tools or parts from terminated dealers under bankruptcy rules.
To make matters worse, Joseph said Chrysler recently required his facility to be renovated, requiring a multi-million dollar debt in the form of a mortgage.
“This is a private business, not a government entity,” he wrote. “This is beyond imagination! My business is being stolen from me through no fault of our own. We did nothing wrong.”
Joseph continued, “This atrocity will most likely force my family into bankruptcy. This will cause our 50+ employees to be unemployed. How will they provide for their families? … How in the United States of America can this happen?”
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