Still, this is the season when carmakers and other special interests show their ingenuity and adaptability in making impressions at the national political conventions. They hold receptions, breakfasts, lunches and dinners. They sponsor a wide variety of entertainment. Some just send cash.
GM and others from the industry support both the Republican and Democratic celebrations. They are continuing a tradition of trying to build friendships on both sides of the political aisle.
Critics call it hedging bets and buying access to current decision-makers and would-be officeholders. The sponsors call it good citizenship.
Wagoner did not attend the Democratic convention in Boston last week. GM insists his absence was the result of a schedule conflict and not a reflection of corporate political preference.
If executives' time is as precious as cash to a company such as GM, the automaker spent lavishly at the convention that nominated Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry for president.
GM executives on hand included Ken Cole, vice president for government relations; Rod Gillum, vice president for corporate responsibility; Tom Kowaleski, vice president for communications; Beth Lowery, vice president for environment and energy; and Debbie Dingell, a Democratic activist who is GM's executive director of government affairs.
The company also provided more than 300 cars and light trucks and eight diesel-electric hybrid buses for use at the convention. GM will deliver a similar fleet to the GOP convention host committee in New York.
GM is hardly alone.
The Boston host committee lists DaimlerChrysler as a "silver benefactor." That means it contributed at least $250,000. The automaker is giving a similar amount in New York.
Toyota Motor North America Inc. co-sponsored events for key members of Congress and for lawmakers from states in which the company has facilities, spokeswoman Martha Voss said. Josephine Cooper, group vice president for government and industry affairs, led a team of Toyota lobbyists at the Democratic convention.
The company plans a similar showing in New York, Voss said.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sponsored Boston gatherings for Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who is married to GM's Debbie Dingell, and for Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. The alliance, which represents the Big 3 and six import-brand automakers, also sent a team of lobbyists, led by Vice President Mike Stanton.
Ford Motor Co. is following its custom of a keeping a lower profile at the conventions. But it had three governmental affairs vice presidents in Boston and isn't ruling out more significant participation, Ford spokesman Mike Moran said.
Phil Brady, president of the National Automobile Dealers Association, led a group of the organization's lobbyists to Boston. Brady also plans to be in New York, NADA spokesman David Hyatt said.
In addition, the gift bags of delegates to both conventions include a used-car guide published by NADA.