Jon Lind, general manager of a Ford-Lincoln dealership in tiny Burlington, Colo., was thinking of returning to the National Automobile Dealers Association convention next year after a 15-year absence.
Then he found out about the keynote speaker. Now, not only is Lind not attending; he has asked the group to cancel his membership.
"I don't have a problem with them meeting with her," Lind said in an interview. "But when I see the announcement that the 'Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton' will be giving the keynote address, the hair on my back just sticks up. Why her?"
The answer is simple, says NADA Chairman David Westcott: "We wanted somebody well-known, with a name -- a draw" for the January meeting in New Orleans. "And she was probably the top name on the list."
Still, the decision isn't sitting well with Lind and a vocal faction of the 16,000-member group.
NADA says it has received at least a dozen angry messages from dealers in the weeks since it announced the selection, some of whom said they will skip the convention because they dislike Clinton's political views.
Jim Ziegler, a Georgia dealer consultant who writes columns for auto industry publications, says he was deluged by profane responses to his Facebook post asking people what they thought of NADA's pick.
NADA wouldn't discuss the cost of the speech, citing a confidentiality clause in its contract with Clinton, but according to media reports, she commands about $200,000 a speech.
NADA officials are standing by the choice, describing Clinton -- the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state -- as a high-interest speaker with unparalleled credentials in American politics.
"Our job is to provide our members with exposure to all facets of business and government that can affect their dealerships," NADA President Peter Welch wrote in an e-mail to Automotive News. "Like her or not, Senator Clinton is perhaps the most prominent American woman of modern times."