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Auto dealers: special interests or special friends?

I have no opinion on the proposal by Sen. Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, to give auto dealers a pass on new consumer protection provisions in a major financial regulatory bill. I am not surprised that a Republican would go to bat for this quintessential business lobby, especially given its presence in every congressional district in America.

I am struck, though, by how quickly the dealers have morphed, in Democratic rhetoric.

Today, the president labels the dealers "special interests," out to gouge "countless families – particularly military families" on their car loans with the help of a "special carve-out" won by their lobbyists.

But wasn't it only a couple of months ago that the House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and his able whip, Rep. Chris van Hollen of the same state, were themselves going to bat for the dealers, trying to get them a special exemption from the sacrifices that the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies imposed on other stakeholders, such as unions and bondholders? Why yes, yes it was.

Back then, Democrats spoke of the car dealers as profitable pillars of their communities, the sponsors of Little Leagues and creators of jobs. Van Hollen gave a floor speech hailing the dealers' aggressive lobbying "truly historic grassroots effort," notwithstanding the fact that the resulting legislation probably added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of the taxpayer bailout of GM and Chrysler. The White House stood by and did nothing -- thus undercutting the position previously taken by the Treasury Department's own auto task force.

Looks to me like the auto dealers are playing the two parties like so many violins.

By  | May 12, 2010; 3:49 PM ET
Categories:  Lane  
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What a JACKASS comment that is from Obama !!!!

Posted by: yourmomscalling | May 12, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Hold it, bashers from all sides: the problem here seems to be lumping all car dealers together. Here in Bradenton, Florida, we have Autoway Ford on one side of 14th St. Autoway is a new car dealer (Ford, obviously) that sponsors all kinds of community events, and makes a living selling new and late-model used cars. Autoway does not finance cars. It sells and services them, and leave the financing to banks, credit unions, and finance companies.

Across the street from Autoway is El Cheapo Rides (real business name, *not* made-up), where you can get easy "buy here, pay here" credit to buy older, less expensive cars than Autoway sells.

These two businesses are both "car dealers," but they're no more alike than La Prima Taqueria (another real local business, and one of my faves) is like hoity Michael's on East.

It's the sled lots (buy here, pay here joints) that the government is jumping on for insane interest rates, while it is displaying mucho sympathy for new car dealers like Autoway Ford -- but not enough sympathy soon enough for Red Hoagland Pontiac/GMC, which lost its franchise and has left a huge showroom building vacant four blocks from my home.

Posted by: roblimo | May 13, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Given an autodealership is being given a gift to become a multimillionaire. That's why Brownback and the republicans are going to bat for them... not because they sponsor little league etc. They only do that to git cheap advertising. Not outta the goodness that is auto dealers. When is the last time you had service done by the dealer.. costs 4x the average local mechanic was my personal experience. profit directly in the pocket of the dealer..

Posted by: vanwahlgren | May 13, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

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