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The Big Three, Big Labor, And Corruption In Washington

by @ 4:55 pm on December 4, 2008. Filed under Auto Industry, Business, Economics, Politics

Apparently, the Big Three automakers had enough cash on hand to grease a few palms in Washington this year:

(CBS) As Congress mulls over a bailout for U.S. automakers, some may be thinking about more than jobs and the economy.

The auto industry spent nearly $50 million lobbying Congress in the first nine months of this year.

And people tied to the auto industry gave another $15 million in campaign contributions, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

It’s not surprising that a lot of that money went to members of Congress from Michigan, where the auto industry is the biggest employer and politicians are passionate advocates for their constituents.

Take Sen. Carl Levin, who received $438,304 from the automotive industry. And in the House, Rep. Joe Knollenberg received $879,327. Rep. John Dingell got nearly a million from the industry. All have enjoyed generous support from the auto industry over their careers, with GM and Ford as their two top contributors. All support a bailout.

But nobody’s been a bigger advocate for Motor City interests than Dingell. And for him, the stakes aren’t just political, they’re personal.

“There’s an actual conflict,” said Ryan Alexander of the nonprofit group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “His personal financial health, you know, the wealth of his family is tied up in the car industry.”

Dingell’s wife Debbie once worked as a lobbyist for GM.

When she married the congressman, she became a senior GM executive at an undisclosed salary. And we found the couple has extensive GM assets.

Dingell’s current financial disclosure filed in May lists GM stock worth up to $350,000, options worth up to $1 million more, and a GM pension fund. In 2000, among the Dingells’ GM assets were stock options worth up to $5 million.

And in 1998, the congressman reported selling GM stock options worth up to $1 million dollars.

Dingell wouldn’t agree to an interview.

Of course he wouldn’t.

None of this should come as a surprise, of course. The automakers, and the UAW whose contributions aren’t mentioned in this report, know that it’s in their interests to make sure that guys like John Dingell (D., General Motors) are in their pocket.

Here’s an idea — any Senator or Congressman who recieved campaign contributions from an auto industry PAC, auto industry employee, or the UAW or it’s members should recuse themselves from voting on any proposed bailout package.

Nah, it’ll never work; if we do that, then Congress will be able to debate this thing in a phone booth.

Watch the report:

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