- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - General Motors Corp. spent $2.8 million lobbying the U.S. government in the first three months of 2009, while the company was surviving on $13.4 billion in federal loans, according to a government filing.

The Detroit automaker said it spent the money lobbying a range of issues, including the economic stimulus package, environmental, consumer safety and health issues.

The automaker’s lobbying costs fell 15 percent from the $3.3 million it spent in the fourth quarter of 2008, but are up from the $2.7 million it spent in the third quarter, according to filings.

GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company did not spend any of its lobbying budget on obtaining government assistance, nor did it spend any of the federal aid it has received thus far on lobbying.

“We’re a part of arguably one of the most regulated industries and we provide a voice in complex policy discussions,” Martin said. “We meet strict reporting requirements.”

GM said it lobbied on a wide array of issues. It listed the economic stimulus package passed earlier this year, as well as climate change, the Clean Air Act and automotive safety issues such as air bags, alcohol detection systems and child passenger safety issues.

Other issues included lobbying for research and development funding for cellulosic ethanol and other advanced propulsion technologies, international trade and telecommunications issues.

“I’m not sure there’s a full appreciation of the breadth of issues that affect the auto industry,” Martin said.

At the same time, the nation’s two other big car manufacturers reduced their spending on influencing policy compared with last year.

Chrysler LLC, which got a $4 billion loan, and parent company Cerberus Capital Management LP together spent $1.1 million lobbying during the first three months of this year, according to filings. That’s down about 50 percent from what the two spent during the last three months of 2008.

Ford Motor Co., which says it has no plans to take government help, reported spending $1.8 million to lobby so far this year, down just 9 percent from what it spent at the end of last year.

Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the Washington-based Public Interest Research Group, said it is troubling that companies receiving taxpayer assistance continue to spend money on lobbying. However, he noted that the auto industry has received much less money than the banking sector. The auto industry’s bailout has also come with much tougher conditions.

“My real concern is, how much are the banks lobbying with their TARP money, which dwarfs what the car companies got?” Mierzwinski said. “The car companies at least make something, and they’re still making cars. The banks aren’t making any loans.”

Although not all companies have yet reported their first-quarter lobbying expenses, recipients of bailout money _ including GM _ increased lobbying spending in the fourth quarter last year. The companies said at the time they did not spend bailout money on lobbying.

However, Mierzwinski dismissed that claim.

“If the government has given you billions of dollars, then you can spend that money on lobbying, or you can spend it on something else,” he said. “If you spend it on lobbying then you’ve got money to spend on something else.”

GM’s Martin said that view “fails to recognize that we have other sources of revenue.”

GM received $13.4 billion in TARP money at the beginning of the year. It is rushing to complete a government-mandated restructuring by the end of May so it can qualify for up to $16.6 billion more. The White House has told GM to wring deeper concessions from its bondholders, union and other stakeholders.

On Monday, GM said it will cut 1,600 white-collar workers over the next several days as it moves toward eliminating 47,000 jobs worldwide by the end of the year.

Shares of GM fell 20 cents, or 11 percent, to close Monday at $1.66.

_____

AP Writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

(This version CORRECTS Chrysler and Ford lobbying totals).)

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide