By Vince Bond Jr., Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (May 22, 2013) — Two congressmen — one a former Ohio auto dealer and the other a Pennsylvania new- and used-car dealer — have asked the U.S. Treasury Department to release materials detailing how General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group L.L.C. dealerships were selected for closure during the 2008-09 restructuring of the auto industry.
Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, who owned a now-shuttered Chevrolet store in Wadsworth, Ohio, and Mike Kelly, R-Pa., owner of Cadillac-Chevrolet, Hyundai and Kia stores in Pennsylvania, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew highlighting their concerns about the fairness of the selection process.
The request for information follows revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has targeted conservative groups for tax-exempt status scrutiny.
Mr. Renacci bought his Chevrolet dealership in 2007 when he was mayor of Wadsworth. The store closed in 2010 after he lost an arbitration battle with GM.
"I always wondered what the true process was because it was not a lot of information given to any of us who were told we were not going to be a part of the General Motors family going forward," said Mr. Renacci, who wouldn't rule out a return to the car business one day.
"…When you see issues like what happened with the IRS, you really get concerned of how hardworking American taxpayers are being treated—whether they're car dealers or just regular people trying to form Tea Party groups."
Mr. Kelly's Cadillac dealership was slated to close, but ended up receiving a reinstatement letter from GM.
Messrs. Renacci and Kelly want the Treasury to provide all emails, phone records, notes, memoranda, reports and other communications related to the decisions about dealership closures.
They also want the names of the officials who made those decisions and "any data considered by the agency in making these decisions, including meetings with outside groups."
Both congressmen wrote that the IRS incident "raises serious questions about past decisions made by the department regarding auto dealership closures that occurred in 2008 and 2009."
In the letter, the congressmen wrote they have an obligation to the American people "to ensure that political profiling has not been a systemic issue within this administration."
In the May 16 letter, Messrs. Kelly and Renacci point out that a Treasury Special Inspector General report indicated that selection criteria used by GM and Chrysler to spare or close dealerships weren't followed consistently.
They cited a portion of the so-called SIGTARP report stating there was little or no documentation of the decision to close dealerships with similar profiles. This made it "impossible in many cases for SIGTARP to determine the causes of deviations from the supposedly objective criteria," the letter states.
"In light of SIGTARP's findings that objective criteria were not consistently followed," the letter states, "along with the IRS's recent admission regarding political profiling, we deem it necessary for the Treasury Department to ensure that political profiling was not an aspect of the methodology used for determining dealership closures."
This report appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.