Earlier this week we mentioned an internet-borne conspiracy theory that the Chrysler dealership closings had a partisan tilt. Basically, some blogs believed that dealers who donated to Republicans were heavily represented on the list of closed dealers.
We were pretty sceptical, and we got some comments and emails wondering why we even bothered writing up that “wingnut” conspiracy story.
Well, whatever, the story isn’t going away. And it’s even reached the halls of Congress.
Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner picks it up
Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Repubicans. What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the Right side of the Blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership chain partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty.
The basic issue raised here is this: How do we account for the fact millions of dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by the government, but only one has been found so far that is being closed that contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?
The story has angered Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan learned from a House colleague that his hometown dealership is on the closed list, so expect to hear some noise in Washington.
As for the Mack McLarty dealership, it is an interesting situation. The basic story is that McLarty is a co-owner of a big dealership chain RLJ-McClarty. The J is Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and a big donor to the Democratic party.
The blog Director Blue (warning: it’s a right-wing blog, so don’t have a heart attack once you get there) notes how odd it is that this multi-dealership chain didn’t have a single closure and that in its various markets, it was always a competitor that got shut down. Put another way, RLJ-McClarty Chrysler dealerships in states like Arkansas, Missourri and Alabama just got a lot less competition.
Conversely, stats-god Nate Silver throws cold water on the whole thing, noting that car dealer deanerships go 88% to Republican candidates. He says this isn’t a conspiracy, it’s just bad maths. But as Megan McArdle notes, it’s still odd that they’ve only found one Obama donor on the closed list (12% Democratic donation rate is small, but it’s not nil). And the fact that the one really Democratic chain went unscathed also raises eyebrows.
The best way for this to end would be for the government to provide even a smidgen of insight into how it selected dealerships for closure. So far, it really hasn’t offered a thing.
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