Obama Closed Republican-Owned Chrysler Dealerships?
That’s what some on the right are now alleging: that someone in the Obama administration’s automotive task force factored in partisan political donations when deciding which Chrysler dealerships to close. I’m skeptical. Even Jonah Goldberg is skeptical. But it’s entirely possible that whatever formula was used could have included factors that gave “Democratic” dealers an edge. And, even if entirely innocent in motive, that would be an incredibly toxic outcome.
The allegation strikes me as a potential Republican analogue to the US Attorney Scandal. In that case the Bush administration appeared to have purged the ranks of the federal justice system… based on which of its own attorneys weren’t playing ball with it’s push to initiate partisan witchhunts aimed at Democrats. That, of course, would have involved perverting the entire justice system: arguably much more serious than playing political favorites in government bailouts. But, at least in terms of its actual effect, the latter is really no different.
And as a PR disaster for an administration trying to build a reputation for transparency, it’s potentially much a bigger deal… if only because the element of corruption is much easier to explain. Even if this is just another bogus conspiracy theory, Obama’s task force had better be scrambling to defuse and refute these sorts of claims before they break into a major story.
Of course, conspiracy theory sounds about right so far. The allegations are so far largely anecdotal, cheered on by dealerships and lawyers with a vested interest in coming up with a way to derail the closing process. Auto-dealers are generally pretty pro-Republican in general, and as a Goldberg reader points out: 4.8% of the auto dealerships closed were minority owned, which is exactly the same total percentage of minority owned dealerships out there. It’s hard to imagine a plot to benefit Democrat donors that wouldn’t include obvious favoritism for minority ownership as well.
Update: Drudge is now pushing the story and the right-wing blogosphere has dutifully gone mad with gleerage.
Meanwhile, elder Statsman Nate Silver throws some cold water on the entire affair.
Update 2: Critics still not satisfied, pointing out that the Republican dominance of dealerships still doesn’t explain why there are so many examples of big Democratic dealerships who survived while seeing their Republican counterparts wiped out.