Posts Tagged ‘political donations’

Public Unions To Govmt Budgets Like Kryptonite To Superman

January 25, 2010

Warning: do not read this if you don’t want your eyeballs to shoot out of your skull like bullets.

JANUARY 22, 2010, 11:19 P.M. ET

Public Employee Unions Are Sinking California
Months after closing its last budget gap, the Golden State is $20 billion in the red.

By STEVEN GREENHUT

An old friend of mine has a saying, “Even the worm learns.” Prod one several hundred times, he says, and it will learn to avoid the prodder. As California enters its annual budget drama, I can’t help but wonder if the wisdom of the elected politicians here in the state capital equals that of the earthworm.

The state is in a precarious position, with a 12.3% unemployment rate (more than two points higher than the national average) and a budget $20 billion in the red (only months after the last budget fix closed a large deficit). Productive Californians are leaving for states with less-punishing regulatory and tax regimes. Yet so far there isn’t a broad consensus to do much about those who have prodded the state into its current position: public employee unions that drive costs up and fight to block spending cuts.

Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a budget that calls for a $6.9 billion handout from Washington (unlikely to be forthcoming) and vows to protect current education funding, 40% of the state’s budget. He does want to eliminate the Calworks welfare-to-work program and enact a 5% pay cut for state employees. These are reasonable ideas, but also politically unlikely.

CCgreenhut

Associated Press – Los Angeles County employees rally for a new contract.


As the Sacramento Bee’s veteran columnist Dan Walters recently put it, the governor’s budget is “disconnected from economic and political reality.” Mr. Walters suspects what will happen next: “Most likely, [the governor] and lawmakers will, to use his own phrase, ‘kick the can down the road’ with some more accounting tricks and other gimmicks, and dump the mess on whoever is ill-fated to become governor a year hence.”

Mr. Walters’ Jan. 10 column was fittingly titled, “Schwarzenegger Reverts to Fantasy with Budget Proposal.” Shortly before releasing his budget, the governor and Democratic state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg held a self-congratulatory news conference. Mr. Steinberg used the spotlight to bemoan what he deemed to be unfair attacks on California. Mr. Schwarzenegger told a hokey story about his pet pig and pony working together to break into the dog’s food. It was an example, he said, of how “last year, we here in this room did some great things working together.”

Meanwhile, activists are fast at work. For example, the Bay Area Council, a moderate business organization, is pushing for a constitutional convention to reshape California’s textbook-sized constitution. The council’s aim is to ditch a constitutional provision that requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature to pass budgets. Other reforms being proposed include a plan to institute a part-time legislature and another plan to require legislators to pass drug tests. None of these ideas will ratchet down state spending.

To do that California needs to take on its public employee unions.

Approximately 85% of the state’s 235,000 employees (not including higher education employees) are unionized. As the governor noted during his $83 billion budget roll-out, over the past decade pension costs for public employees increased 2,000%. State revenues increased only 24% over the same period. A Schwarzenegger adviser wrote in the San Jose Mercury News in the past few days that, “This year alone, $3 billion was diverted to pension costs from other programs.” There are now more than 15,000 government retirees statewide who receive pensions that exceed $100,000 a year, according to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.

Many of these retirees are former police officers, firefighters, and prison guards who can retire at age 50 with a pension that equals 90% of their final year’s pay. The pensions for these (and all other retirees) increase each year with inflation and are guaranteed by taxpayers forever—regardless of what happens in the economy or whether the state’s pensions funds have been fully funded (which they haven’t been).

A 2008 state commission pegged California’s unfunded pension liability at $63.5 billion, which will be amortized over several decades. That liability, released before the precipitous drop in stock-market and real-estate values, certainly will soar.

One idea gaining traction is to create a two-tier pension system to offer lesser benefits to new employees. That’s a good start, but it would still leave tens of thousands of state employees in line to receive lucrative benefits that the state must find future revenues to pay for. Another is to enact paycheck protections that require union officials to get permission from their members before spending union dues on politics (something that would undercut union power).

My hope is that these and other reforms find support in unlikely places. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a well-known liberal voice, recently wrote this in the San Francisco Chronicle: “The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians—pushed by our friends in labor—gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . [A]t some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact.”

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, another prominent liberal Democrat, told a legislative hearing in October that public employee pensions would “bankrupt” the state. And the chief actuary for the California Public Employees Retirement System has called the current pension situation “unsustainable.”

As the state careens toward insolvency, these remarks are the first sign that some people are learning the lesson of the earthworm.

Mr. Greenhut is director of the Pacific Research Institute’s journalism center and author of the new book “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation” (The Forum Press).

I’m left aghast at the thought that unions across the country are literally spending hundreds of billions of dollars for political campaigns while passing off their health care and retirement costs to taxpayers.

Pension costs increased 2,000% while revenues increased only 24% – and the unions that inflicted this hell on us continue to run massive political campaigns to collect more and more and more while we drown trying to sustain a dying system.

Again and again, Obama has demonstrated that he is a bought-and-paid-for slave to the union agendaIn Obama’s own words:

“Your agenda has been my agenda in the United States Senate.  Before debating health care, I talked to Andy Stern and SEIU members.”

“We are going to paint the nation purple with SEIU.”

In his latest act of betrayal of the vast majority of the American people who are NOT unionized, Obama handed out $59 billion to the unions in yet another subsidized sweetheart deal.

I want you to understand in no uncertain terms: America is very nearly doomed.  When it dies, it will be due to Democrats and their hellish, selfish policies.

Is Obama Closing Dealerships As Political Punishment?

May 28, 2009

I’ve been trying to sort out why it would be beneficial to shut down car dealerships when the auto industry is facing bankruptcy.  After all, more dealerships means more car sales.  And it would very much seem that more sales would be a good thing for a struggling industry.

It would be one thing if the dealerships were corporate-owned.  Corporations shut down underperforming locations all the time in order to consolidate cash and improve profitability.  But the dealerships that are being closed are NOT corporate-owned; they are private.  So you kind of have to wonder what is going on.

On possible reason is that fewer dealerships will be able to create more sales and therefore create more “buzz” by improving facilities and having more potential customers.  Call it the “wow” factor.

In any event, the real question is why some dealerships are closed and others are allowed to remain open.

One big example in my own local area is Dodge City Chrysler in La Quinta, the management of which was stunned to find the dealership on the closure list.  They are appealing the decision, but intend to remain open even if they are “closed” by Chrysler as a service department and as a pre-owned dealership.  The only thing that stands in the way of that plan would be that the current zoning laws don’t allow used car sales.  But the city promises to work with Dodge City if the appeal fails.

Why close down Dodge City?  It’s turning a profit.  It’s successful.

The answer, it turns out, may be “an enemies list.”

We find out the decision to close dealerships was made by the Obama administration’s task force, and NOT by Chrysler.  And we begin to find out a great deal more about the dealerships that were closed, and what political contributions they made to which political causes, as well as dealerships that are being allowed to remain open, and what political contributions they made to which political causes.

ChryslerDealershipShutdown examines the political donations of dealerships scheduled to close versus those that are being allowed to remain open and leads to a frightening conclusion: it very much appears that dealerships are being closed down because of their political contributions, rather than because of purely business considerations.

What follows is an article by Doug Ross dated May 27, 2009:

Dealergate: Stats demonstrate that Chrysler Dealers likely shuttered on a partisan basis

This work builds upon the research done by numerous parties, most notably Joey Smith. It is a follow-up to my original post, entitled “Did anti-Obama campaign contributions dictate which Chrysler dealers were shuttered?” The odds that these closings occurred without partisan bias are roughly equivalent to the odds that Jean Claude Van-Damme will grab a Best Supporting Actor Oscar next year for a remake of Terms of Endearment.

How did the U.S. government’s “car czar” decide which Chrysler dealers to close and which would remain open? No one appears to know, not even the President of Chrysler:

…Lawyer Leonard Bellavia, of Bellavia Gentile & Associates, who represents some of the terminated dealers, said he deposed Chrysler President Jim Press on Tuesday and came away with the impression that Press did not support the plan…

It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers,” Bellavia said. “It really wasn’t Chrysler’s decision. They are under enormous pressure from the President’s automotive task force.”

Follow the evidence trail, below, and judge for yourself.

Dealers on the closing list donated millions to Republicans, $200 for Obama

The initial pass at the list of shuttered dealers showed they had donated, in the aggregate, millions to Republican candidates and PACs and a total of $200 to Barack Obama.

In fact, I have thus far found only a single Obama donor ($200 from Jeffrey Hunter of Waco, Texas) on the closing list.

Another review of all 789 closing dealerships, by WND, found $450,000 donated to GOP presidential candidates; $7,970 to Sen. Hillary Clinton; $2,200 to John Edwards and $450 to Barack Obama.

Now, and this is important, Chrysler claimed that its formula for determining whether a dealership should close or not included “sales volume, customer service scores, local market share and average household income in the immediate area.”

Dealer Jim Anderer told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto he can’t comprehend how his dealership can be among those killed: he stated that his sales volume ranking is in the top 2 percent of all dealers.

Furthermore, Anderer says explanations aren’t forthcoming. “They won’t tell us. They seem to be running for cover right now because they won’t give us a solid explanation. They come up with all these reasons, but none of them seem to make sense… This is insanity. The government is stealing my business. And they’re telling me there’s nothing I can do about it… There was no process that you could put your finger on and say, ‘Hey, we cut 25 percent of the lowest performing dealers.’ They didn’t do that. Nobody will give us a real clear explanation of the formula that they came up with.”

The odds of a non-partisan process being employed can best be illustrated by RLJ.

The Mysterious Case of RLJ

In Smith’s research, one company kept popping up on the list of dealerships remaining open. The company is RLJ-McLarty-Landers, which owns six Chrysler dealerships. All six dealerships are on “the safe list.”

RLJ’s owners “are Steve Landers (long-time car dealer, 4th-generation dealer), Thomas “Mack” McLarty (former Chief of Staff for President Clinton), and Robert Johnson (founder of Black Entertainment Television and co-owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats)… McLarty campaigned for Obama in 2008, and Johnson has given countless amounts of money to Democrats over the years.

Smith examined RLJ’s markets, which I’ve illustrated below.

Bentonville, AR Market

1. Bentonville, AR Landers-McLarty (RLJ owned)
2. Springdale, AR Springdale Chrysler-Jeep (owned by Harold Schwartz)
3. Springdale, AR Steve Smith Country

Springdale is about 15 miles south of Bentonville.

The 2 Springdale dealerships gave no money to any political candidates since 2004. The 2 dealership will close in June while the RLJ-owned dealership in Bentonville will remain open.

The Landers-McLarty dealership will have no other Chrysler dealers within a 20-mile radius of the dealership.

The closest competitors will be in Pineville, MO (22 miles away) and Fayetteville, AR (27 miles away).

Huntsville, AL Market

1. Huntsville, AL Landers McCarty D-C-J (RLJ Owned)
2. Athens, AL Champion Chrysler Dodge (owned by Jeffrey Hamm)
3. Decatur, AL Cloverleaf C-D-J (owned by Kevin Morris)

The dealerships in Athens and Decatur gave no money to any political candidates since 2004. Landers-McCarty and the Athens dealership will remain open while the Decatur dealership will close in June.

Here is a link to the document containing the information gathered on RJL-McLarty-Landers. It appears that the company will benefit greatly from the reduced competition in their markets. For the most part, the dealerships that are forced to shut down in the 5 markets have either given no money to candidates or have donated to GOP candidates in the past

Branson, MO

There are 4 dealerships within 30 miles of Branson, MO.

1. Branson, MO Tri-Lakes Motors (RLJ owned)
2. Ava, MO Davis Dodge (owned by Larry Davis)
3. Ozark, MO Heritage Chrysler-Jeep (owned by Kay Church)
4. Ozark, MO Ozark Dodge (owned by Kay Church)

Mr. Davis and Ms, Church gave no money to any political candidates since 2004.

The RLJ owned dealership in Branson will remain open while the other 3 dealerships will be forced to close in June.

Tri-Lakes Motors in Branson (RLJ owned) will have no other Chrysler dealers within a 30-mile radius of its dealership…

Lee’s Summit, MO

There are 5 Chrysler dealerships near Lee’s Summit:

1. Lee’s Summit Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep (Lee’s Summit, MO)
2. Crawford’s Raytown (Jeep) (Raytown, MO)
3. Mitch Crawford’s Holiday Motors (Chrysler) (Raytown, MO)
4. Raytown Dodge Company (Dodge) (Raytown, MO)
5. Milner-O’Quinn Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep (all 4 brands) (Harrisonville, MO)

#1 is located in Lee’s Summit and is owned by RLJ-McCarty-Landers.

#2, #3, and #4 are located 9 miles northwest in Raytown, MO and is owned by Michael Crawford.

#5 is located 19 miles south in Harrisonville, MO and is owned by Charles O’Quinn.

The Lee’s Summit dealership will remain open while the other 4 in Raytown and Harrisonville will close. The Lee’s Summit dealership will have no other Chrysler dealerships located within at least a 20 mile radius. All of the local competition will be wiped out due to the Chrysler closings.

Bossier City/Shreveport, LA Market

There are 3 dealerships in this market:

1. Bossier City, LA Landers DCJ (RLJ owned)
2. Shreveport, LA Roundtree Automotive Group
3. Shreveport, LA Bob Post/Hebert’s Town and Country

Marshall Hebert (owner of Hebert’s Town and country) gave $4,250 to GOP candidates, $2,500 to Dem candidates, and $1,300 to the NRCC since 2004. Mr. Hebert is also on the National Auto Dealers Association Board of Directors representing Louisiana.

Frank Stinson (owner of Roundtree) gave $24,000 to GOP candidates and $3,400 to Demcocratic candidates since 2004.

The Bossier City dealership owned by RLJ-McCarty-Landers and the Shreveport dealership owned by Marshall Hebert will stay open. The Shreveport dealership owned by Stinson will be forced to close.

But that’s not all

Smith and various tipsters also point to Lithia Motors. Sidney Deboer will “come out a winner” due to the shutdown of various competitive dealerships.

Of 29 existing dealerships, Smith reports that Lithia will likely have a net gain of three new dealers after the dust settles (they lose just two and may gain five). Debeor has donated nearly $15,000 to two Democrat candidates and approximately $8,250 to four GOP individuals.

What are the Odds?

All other factors being equal, what are the odds that RLJ’s dealerships would remain open while all other area dealerships would be shuttered? The approximate odds of such an occurrence can be calculated. 789 of the Chrysler’s dealerships are closing, which represents 25% of the total (according to MSNBC).

Recall that Chrysler claimed that its formula for determining whether a dealership should close or not included “sales volume, customer service scores, local market share and average household income in the immediate area.”

Thus, the odds that any, randomly selected, single dealership would remain open is roughly 75%. The odds that a single dealership would close is roughly 25%.

In the Bentonville, AR territory, the odds that RLJ would remain while its competition gets axed is .75 * .25 * .25 = .046875 (4.6%).

In Huntsville, AL, the odds are .75 * .25 * .25 = .046875.

In Branson, MO, .75 * .25 *.25 *.25 = .01171875.

In Lee’s Summit, MO, .75 * .25 *.25 *.25 *.25 = .0029296875.

In Shreveport, LA, .75 * .25 *.75 = .140625.

What are the odds of all of these RLJ dealerships remaining open while their competitors are wiped out? Maybe 1/10,000,000 of 1%. Yes, that’s one ten-millionth of one percent.

Approximately the odds that I’ll win American Idol. Or that you’ll land two frisbees, simultaneously, on each of Barack Obama’s teleprompters during one of his televised speeches.

Hello, mainstream media: anyone listening? How about you, class-action lawyers?

What we find is that RLJ dealerships whose ownership has close ties to the Democratic Party remain open in teritory after teritory, while competitors who gave to Republicans are closed down again and again.

Something isn’t right.

Red State has more, offering links to stories of dealerships that are closed, and clearly shouldn’t have been, as well as describing the Republican connections to dealerships that ended up on the closure list.

Richard Nixon created an enemies list of major political oppoenents in order to “screw” political enemies, by means of tax audits from the IRS, and by manipulating grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, and by other means.

If the dealership closures are a form of political attack, this would be FAR worse than Nixon’s abuse of power, simply because Nixon and Colson used a scalpal to cut at enemies; whereas Obama and his Task Force are using the equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

We’re talking about somewhere around 20,000 employees at these 789 dealerships.

Let me repeat the words of the attorney to deposed the president of Chrysler:

“It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers… It really wasn’t Chrysler’s decision. They are under enormous pressure from the President’s automotive task force.”

Even Nixon never dreamed of abusing his presidential power like that.