WASHINGTON -- A senior Republican will make a legislative bid tomorrow to end lobbying by General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group as long as they are substantially owned by the federal government.
Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will introduce an amendment to the financial regulation bills during tomorrow's conference meeting, Issa's spokesman said.
The amendment would extend the current prohibition on lobbying by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled mortgage giants, to all companies in which the government has ownership stakes, said Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella.
These companies would include GM, Chrysler, Ally Financial Inc. (the former GMAC) and insurer AIG, he said.
“Any company that has borrowed taxpayer dollars should not be allowed to hire a lobbyist until the taxpayers have been repaid in full,” Bardella said in an e-mail. “There is no justification for allowing a company subsidized by taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist so they can try to influence the very government that owns the company.”
The bill would prohibit the companies from hiring lobbyists and require their existing lobbyists to de-register, quit or have their contracts nullified, the Issa spokesman said.
House and Senate negotiators have been meeting since last Thursday to try to resolve differences in the financial regulation bills passed by each chamber. One provision under discussion -- unrelated to the Issa amendment -- would exempt auto dealers from oversight by a proposed new consumer finance agency.
GM indicated it would oppose the Issa amendment.
“General Motors will continue to exercise its First Amendment right to free speech,” company spokesman Greg Martin said. “Because complex policy issues can have significant economic and competitive consequences to GM and its competitors, the company is obligated to have its voice heard in the policy-making process.”
A Chrysler spokeswoman declined immediate comment.
The government holds a 60 percent ownership stake in GM and a 10 percent stake in Chrysler as part of the 2009 bailout and Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations of the two companies.
Since their bankruptcy filings in the spring of 2009, GM has spent $4.3 million on lobbying through March of this year, and Chrysler has spent $2.3 million, according to Center for Responsive Politics data provided by a spokesman.
The government also holds a 56 percent stake in Ally Financial -- the renamed parent company of automotive financier GMAC -- which was bailed out, but didn't file for bankruptcy.
"We have not seen the full amendment being proposed, so we can not comment on it specifically at this time," Ally Financial spokeswoman Gina Proia said in an e-mail. "Ally Financial's government relations activities are de minimis as evidenced by our quarterly reports. Our first quarter lobbying expenses were $235,000."
Issa is considering a prohibition on lobbying for any company in which the government has a 5 percent stake, though the lawmaker hasn't made a final decision on the details of his amendment, Bardella said. Issa is one of the conferees, Bardella said.
The financial-regulation bill that emerges from conference has to go before the House and Senate for a final vote before heading to President Barack Obama's desk.
Fannie Mae was directed by the company's regulator to disband lobbying after the company was placed into government conservatorship in September 2008, a Fannie Mae spokeswoman said.