WASHINGTON -- Spencer Abraham's resignation Monday as secretary of the Department of Energy added fresh fuel to speculation that he could become the top lobbyist for automakers in the nation's capital.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has been seeking a high-profile person since early 2003 to be the voice and face of the industry in Washington.
And Abraham, who was a U.S. senator from Michigan before becoming President Bush's energy secretary in 2001, is familiar with industry players and issues.
At the department, he championed administration programs to develop technology for future, pollution-free, petroleum-free vehicles powered by hydrogen.
But one automaker executive warned that Abraham could be viewed as too friendly to the Big 3 to be acceptable to the alliance. Its membership also includes six import-brand companies. Only six of the nine members have voting rights; they are the Big 3, Toyota Motor North America Inc., Volkswagen of America Inc. and BMW (US) Holding Corp.
Observers noted further that Abraham was unsuccessful in his main responsibility of the past few years - getting a comprehensive national energy bill passed by Congress.
Another industry insider said there will be many top interest group positions to be filled in the next few months, and it may take awhile for the top employers and top job-seekers to settle on one another - just like in baseball free agency.
The alliance post is expected to pay about $1 million a year.
An alliance spokeswoman said only that the search is ongoing and there is nothing to announce at this time.