General Motors’ political action committee has resumed giving money to politicians, and it does so under a huge cloud. Our government owns 61 percent of GM. An additional 12 percent is owned by the governments of Canada and the province of Ontario. This “Government Motors” arrangement is unlikely to change soon. Even as the post-bankruptcy GM strives to make an initial public offering of its stock, the U.S. government reportedly plans to sell off no more than 20 percent of its shares.
Although American employees of General Motors have every right to participate fully in the political process, it is highly inappropriate for this government-owned company to begin currying congressional favor at Americans’ expense. Since June 30, the company’s PAC has dished out about $90,000 to 51 politicians. This includes several endangered Democrats (including Reps. John Hall of New York, Rick Boucher of Virginia and Chet Edwards of Texas) and several conservative Republicans (including Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Mike Crapo of Idaho and Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia).
In the world of political donations, corporate PACs are designed to throw a company’s weight around on Capitol Hill. In GM’s case, we have a welfare client determined to guarantee its next big bailout. Even more outrageous than the donations themselves is GM’s accompanying taxpayer-funded lobbying blitz.
Since receiving billions in taxpayer support, GM has turned around and used part of the money to hire more than 20 lobbying firms. In the period beginning with GM’s late-2008 bailout and ending June 30 of this year, the company had spent $11.3 million lobbying Congress for special favors. Its PAC donations — and the promise of future gifts — are GM’s most effective method of making sure that congressmen listen when GM lobbyists come calling.
Politicians of both parties must view GM’s money as radioactive. It is recycled taxpayer money, once given to a company that was failing because of its own shortcomings, now reappearing to gain special-interest influence on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers should give back every dime, and we intend to keep urging them to do so. As for GM, which has placed a burden on all Americans through the greed of its unions and the ineptitude of its managers, it should show some contrition by shutting down both its PAC and its lobbying operation until the company is no longer a ward of the Obama White House.