WASHINGTON - Embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is likely to get a friendly reception when he speaks to hundreds of import-brand dealers next week.
DeLay, R-Texas, is fighting ethics controversies to keep his powerful post in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He will be a featured speaker at the annual Automotive Congress of the American International Automobile Dealers Association.
AIADA President Marianne McInerney calls DeLay "a very good friend of this industry." She says she has no qualms about DeLay addressing AIADA members on May 17.
The congress is scheduled for May 16-18 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C.
McInerney says many allegations against DeLay have not been substantiated. She adds that AIADA has a knack for attracting "the newsmakers of the day."
The House ethics committee has admonished DeLay, the No. 2 House Republican, four times for his relations with lobbyists and abuses of power. Critics and news media have produced other allegations.
GOP lawmakers rewrote House ethics rules this year to impede further action against DeLay, critics said. The lawmakers backtracked last month, and a new committee investigation is planned.
Don Beyer, AIADA's vice chairman and a prominent Democratic dealer in suburban Washington, says: "Admire him or not, agree with him or not, Mr. DeLay is at the moment an important person in American politics. I intend to listen to his speech and treat him as AIADA's invited guest, but I do not expect to be persuaded."
DeLay is expected to focus on issues and politics, not his personal troubles, when he speaks to the congress. His audience will include several hundred dealers and auto executives.
AIADA Chairman Jim Evans is market president at AutoNation Inc., the largest dealership group. He says momentum is building for AIADA's Washington agenda and "this is our year for results."
McInerney says dealers plan to make more than 200 visits to congressional offices on May 18 to press for action on their issues.
Other highlights of this year's AIADA meeting:
New bylaws designate one board seat for every vehicle line with 100 or more dealers, more seats for publicly held dealership groups and fewer at-large seats.
Previously, brands with more dealers had more board seats.
McInerney says board members proposed the changes to improve representation and to create "a strong reflection of the dealer population."