Import auto dealers will go ahead with a plan for a political action committee - independent from the nation's other auto retailers - primarily to drive home their positions on U.S. trade issues.
After voting 14-4 late last year to create a political action committee, the board of the American International Automobile Dealers Association has again voted on the measure, this time passing the decision 12-7. The second vote was scheduled to diffuse controversy that the original balloting generated among the usually fraternal ranks of auto dealer groups.
"We have some people at NADA who are upset about this," acknowledged Don Hicks, chairman of AIADA, a group of 11,000 import-brand dealers.
"I'm not sure why there is so much controversy," said the Colorado dealer. "It's really a small group of people who have a problem - and I mean a very small number of people."
The PAC would permit the group to solicit funds from dealers. It has a target of raising $200,000 for federal elections. Hicks vows that the import dealer funds will closely match the political spending by NADA's own PAC - "with a little left over for our own issues."
But he says the pressure is growing for import-brand retailers to gain government support on issues such as the so-called Chicken Tax, a 25 percent tariff incurred by imported pickups. AIADA has campaigned for years to end that tariff.
NADA has resisted the move by the imports, fearing it could weaken the voice of auto dealers on political issues - and perhaps cause legal problems - if two separate retailer PACs simultaneously are attempting to solicit political funds.
Marianne McInerney, AIADA president, said yesterday that 80 percent of her group's members do not currently donate funds to either group.
"There is a lot of money out there that could be put to effective use," McInerney said.
During a speech at a luncheon for AIADA members, Hicks warned of a new rising tide of protectionism in the United States.
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