Turning Japanese

The WaPo newsroom had a solid piece on Toyota’s lobbying efforts yesterday:

With company officials still reeling from recalls of their most popular models, the firm has hired crisis-management experts from Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a bipartisan lobbying firm, and from Glover Park Group, a Democratic public affairs and lobbying operation. The teams join a force of 32 lobbyists already working Capitol Hill on behalf of Toyota and the Toyota dealerships’ political action committee, Gulf States Toyota.

Toyota already has an advantage built over a decade of targeted political giving. More than 40 percent of the 125 members of Congress serving on the three committees investigating Toyota have received campaign donations over the past 10 years, a total of $135,673 from the Toyota dealers’ PAC, from dealership owners and employees, and from staff at Toyota’s U.S. operation, a Washington Post analysis shows. Members of Congress received an additional $1 million for their campaigns through giving to state parties and PACs.

Toyota Motor North America also has backed charities and other nonprofit groups with strong ties to members of Congress, giving $1 million in 2008 and 2009. Some of that money financed events honoring or entertaining the members.

Today, the WaPo opinion page has a piece by Haley Barbour about how great Toyota is.

My point here isn’t to trash Kaplan editorials, my point is that nothing will come of this Toyota safety thing because Toyota, like other big companies, has our government in its pocket. It doesn’t matter if the company is foreign or domestic, but it does seem especially striking when the company is foreign.






65 replies
  1. 1
    JRon says:

    will be interesting to see how many toyota defenders were outspoken opponents of the gm bailout loans. my guess is all of them.

  2. 2
    eemom says:

    l really think so…….

  3. 3
    freelancer says:

    My point here isn’t to trash Kaplan editorials

    Might as well add that to the charges while you’re at it.

    (BTW, the Project Wonderful sidebar ads are getting progressively more retarded. Just sayin’.)

  4. 4
    dr. bloor says:

    Happily for Mr. Barbour, the SCOTUS has removed all those unpleasant restrictions that might have kept Toyota from expre$$ing their deep gratitude during his next campaign.

  5. 5
    MikeJ says:

    Toyota made good cars until they started building them in the US..

  6. 6
    Midnight Marauder says:

    My point here isn’t to trash Kaplan editorials, my point is that nothing will come of this Toyota safety thing because Toyota, like other big companies, has our government in its pocket. It doesn’t matter if the company is foreign or domestic, but it does seem especially striking when the company is foreign.

    I’m reminded by your point of a TPM article last week that discussed how Toyota–thanks to the wonders of globalization–isn’t entirely a foreign-based company operating here any more.

    In recent years, Toyota has sunk roots, both economic and political, into the U.S., building factories in several southern and mid-western states, and forging close ties with powerful lawmakers — including some on the committees charged with investigating the company. Those roots are now so deep that, just as Michigan’s delegation reliably goes to bat for its hometown automakers, Toyota has its own, more far-flung stable of heavy-hitting backers. It’s now not so much the USA versus Japan, as it is G.M. America versus Toyota America.
    __[…]
    All this has created a dynamic in which some conservative southern lawmakers, often already antagonistic to organized labor, have become the unlikely champions of foreign automakers at the expense of the domestic industry. Last year, when Congress was considering bailing out G.M. and Ford, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vociferously opposed the move, and backed a measure that would have required G.M. and Ford to bring their labor costs in line with those at Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers. At a 2006 ceremony to mark the 20-year anniversary of a Toyota plant in Kentucky, McConnell declared: “Kentucky is still reaping the rewards of its 20-year partnership with Toyota, and we hope to continue to do so for years to come.”

    I don’t really know what you do with this information, but I do know that you can color my nonplussed by Haley Barbour’s gushing editorial about the brilliance of Toyota.

  7. 7
    jeffreyw says:

    Bah. What is this politics shit alla time?

    Kittehs, dammit, kittehs.

  8. 8
    eemom says:

    no sex no drugs no wine no women no fun no you no wonder it’s dark

    damned catchy earworm. Thanks DougJ.

  9. 9
    Brachiator says:

    My point here isn’t to trash Kaplan editorials, my point is that nothing will come of this Toyota safety thing because Toyota, like other big companies, has our government in its pocket. It doesn’t matter if the company is foreign or domestic, but it does seem especially striking when the company is foreign.

    Toyota built its reputation on quality and customer service. If customers begin to look at a Toyota as though it might be a Yugo with a stuck accelerator, there is nothing a fancy lobbyist or bought-and-paid-for Congressman can do to reverse the negative perception.

  10. 10
    mr. whipple says:

    @jeffreyw: Cuties!

  11. 11
    Ailuridae says:

    @Midnight Marauder:

    As I mention every time this comes up re: Southern States and foreign automakers, the American population as a whole pays to subsidize these foreign automakers and their plants in the Southern states as those states provide incredibly lucrative tax breaks and more while being welfare states dependent on the federal government to remain solvent.

  12. 12
    Mike Kay says:

    Haley Barbour just lost the red-pick-up truck vote.

  13. 13
    Martin says:

    @Brachiator: Except for the fact that the government can dig Toyota’s hole ever deeper. One of the reasons why the Pinto is legendary is because the feds got involved in the case. 27 people died from the Pinto gas tank problems, 34 so far due to Toyota stuck accelerators.

    When companies can do this without the regulators making a case of it, we seem to give the companies a bit of a pass. That’s what Toyota is worried about. 43 died in Bronco II rollovers and something in 40s due to the Firestone/Explorer situation.

  14. 14
    KG says:

    @Brachiator:

    there is nothing a fancy lobbyist or bought-and-paid-for Congressman can do to reverse the negative perception

    No, but they can sell a bailout for a company that has become too big to fail. I mean, just think of all those jobs that would be lost (in GOP strongholds in the South, no less) if the government didn’t act, and in a recession no less.

  15. 15
    HumboldtBlue says:

    Another win for the union-busters! Yay America! Get rid of qualified, experienced and skilled workers!

  16. 16
    Martin says:

    @Ailuridae: That’d be an interesting federal law – if a state is a net receiver, 50% of any tax exceptions to corporations must be returned to the federal government. They get a lower state tax, but a fractionally higher federal tax. The incentive is still there, however.

  17. 17
    danimal says:

    @eemom: Haley Barbour is a true wanker. (Seems to be an appropriate place to make this comment.)

  18. 18
    robertdsc says:

    @danimal:
    No doubt. Fuck him and Toyota both.

  19. 19
    soonergrunt says:

    @jeffreyw:
    @mr. whipple:
    And anyone else interested–
    My dog seems to have an infected cyst on her jaw. The Vet drained it and gave us a prescription of antibiotics to put on her food.
    The same antibiotics a month ago for my daughter’s ear infection cost $4.00. Thank you, TRICARE!
    The antibiotics for the dog cost $51.00.
    I told my wife that the next time she needs to get a scrip from the the doctor and we’ll break them over her bowel.

  20. 20
    jeffreyw says:

    @soonergrunt:

    I told my wife that the next time she needs to get a scrip from the the doctor and we’ll break them over her bowel.

    In that case I would recommend suppositories

  21. 21
    cincyanon says:

    I drive a Ford but I’ve followed this pretty closely through the news. The numbers of problems are almost minuscule. 30 out of a million plus sold over a decade! I’m glad for the recall, there are something like 500 auto recalls a year for various reasons, but part of me also feels like there is a concerted effort to drive buyers to American owned car company products (nothing wrong with that!) by making Toyota’s problems seem bigger than they are.
    If I have a greater chance of being hit school bus while stalled at a rail road crossing…I think there are bigger issues to spend my time with than Toyota’s recall.

  22. 22
    Steve says:

    When I was a kid in Detroit, Isiah Thomas came this close to being hung for treason for serving as a Toyota spokesman. Then Toyota started building some plants in the state and magically it was all cool again.

  23. 23
    Ailuridae says:

    @soonergrunt:

    Even as the most maligned of the government run health care programs TriCare does really excellent price negotiations with Pharmaceutical companies.

    Pretty sure you meant to close your post with bowl and not bowel though.

  24. 24

    […] February 23, 2010 It IS Weird Being A Voluntary Serf Posted by John O under Political | Tags: Balloon Juice, bought and paid-for Congresspeople, corporate The Man, DougJ, Toyota | Leave a Comment  I suppose I’m doing all right and that’s that, but the power Corporate Man has over us, including our health care, is a frightening thing indeed. […]

  25. 25
    Martin says:

    @cincyanon: Well, when you have a 911 tape released to the public where a police officer is calling in the problem immediately before the family is killed, the bad PR is going to come in torrents.

    It’s not a concerted effort, but the public reacts to situations that they can place themselves in – and that audio really tapped into people, especially when it was a police officer that the public expects should be better equipped to handle such situations.

  26. 26
    Nellcote says:

    I’m constantly amazed by how cheaply congresscritters can be bought.

  27. 27
    Nellcote says:

    @cincyanon:

    Many goopers on the committee felt compelled to share their paranoia that investigating Toyota=conspiracy to sell American cars. I guess they thought it was a good use of their time.

  28. 28
    JeremyH says:

    Let’s get some perspective here.

    $135,673 of direct donations by Toyota to approximately 50 members of congress over 10 years. OMG! That’s $271.35 a year each! How will our representatives ever be able to summon up the courage to say “No” to their corporate overlords now?

    I dunno – doesn’t it seem like bit of a stretch to say that Toyota “has our government in its pocket”, at least in the context of these numbers?

    I do agree with the broader point about the corruption of the government by corporate money – this just seems like pretty small ball compared to the far more egregious examples of grift that occur on a daily basis in DC.

  29. 29
    mr. whipple says:

    @soonergrunt:

    That’s odd, because we get human prozac for one of our cats and it seems dirt cheap.

  30. 30
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    Toyota, like other big companies, has our government in its pocket.

    Doug, have you and John “Emo” Cole spoken with Tim lately? It would only be polite if you two would let him know that our government is irretrievably corrupt and change is a hopeless proposition, might save him a little time on all that pointless phone baking he’s doing.

  31. 31
    de stijl says:

    A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up accelerator jams. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one.

  32. 32
    cincyanon says:

    nellcote,
    I didn’t see that or know it. Seems odd though since I would assume they, like me, want to see American cars sold, so bashing U.S. automakers seems kind of counter productive for them.
    I’m just a cynical bastart who owned an Audi when they went through a lot of crap that ended up being a lot of overloaded bs.
    Didn’t think my comment was a partisan point that’s for sure.

  33. 33
    gex says:

    @Martin: I kinda wondered about that. My impression was always that Ford knew they had a rollover problem, that’s why they instructed people to underinflate their tires. Why they don’t get called to the mat, but Toyota does is baffling to me.

    My girlfriend takes DougJ’s stance, that this is a kabuki since the lawmakers are in their pockets. But why, if it is a show, does this happen? If it is all show, they could pretend to be principled and call Ford out too. Is it because the rubes love to see them going after them furrners?

  34. 34
    RareSanity says:

    @JeremyH:

    That’s only Toyota Corp’s direct contributions to politicians. They wouldn’t be that obvious.

  35. 35
    Morbo says:

    Speaking of Japan, remember the end credits from Sora no Otoshimono, aka “Fly home, gentle panties?” Wonder how to best promote such a series? Yeah.

  36. 36
    mr. whipple says:

    Watching the Olympics and wondering if being the bobsled rear person isn’t like the suckiest job ever. You push like hell, get in and then stick yer head down between your legs. You don’t even get to see the anything all the way down. Who the heck wants that job?

  37. 37
    MikeJ says:

    @RareSanity: No, the article says it’s Toyota’s PAC, its dealers, its employees.

    They have to be that obvious. It’s federal law.

  38. 38
    Ian says:

    Just wait till Toyota makes the automated robot street police cars.

  39. 39
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @mr. whipple:

    Watching the Olympics and wondering if being the bobsled rear person isn’t like the suckiest job ever. You push like hell, get in and then stick yer head down between your legs. You don’t even get to see the anything all the way down. Who the heck wants that job?

    That sure sounds like a craigslist ad looking for Democratic senators to this guy.

  40. 40
    de stijl says:

    You push like hell, get in and then stick yer head down between your legs. You don’t even get to see the anything all the way down. Who the heck wants that job?

    Sounds like a football center.

  41. 41
  42. 42
    de stijl says:

    Blockquote fail.

  43. 43
    Dollared says:

    My point here isn’t to trash Kaplan editorials

    Actually, you really should. I’m convinced that the real problem with the Kaplan Daily is that it is the daily newspaper of the lobbying industry. The same way that the LA Times is a pretty good newspaper until you get to the part that My God! Chinese Communists are Going To Steal Our Precious Movie Patrimony Before it Can Be Released In Theaters at $9/Seat as God Intended!!!, the Kaplan Daily could be an ordinary metropolitan daily until you get to the part where All Lobbyists are Merely Humble Petitioners To Their Government to Get F-22 Parts Built in Every State (Next To Kinda Clean Coal Power Plants) as God Intended. And NO, It’s NOT Getting Warmer, Why?

  44. 44
    RareSanity says:

    @MikeJ:

    I see…

    You guys are right. There is absolutely no way to get money to politicians other than the ones that need to be documented.

    My bad.

  45. 45
    katherine says:

    @soonergrunt: For some medications, my vet recommends taking the prescription to a pharmacy for humans because it’s cheaper.

  46. 46
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    It doesn’t matter if the company is foreign or domestic, but it does seem especially striking when the company is foreign.

    Welcome to the United States of America, a wholly owned subsidiary of whoever has the most money to buy off the politicians. Their only job is to serve sellout and protect collect.

    I have never cared for ‘fly by wire’ systems in cars. I want a mechanical linkage between my gas pedal and throttle. Who needs a messy bomb in a vehicle when you can find some bloodthirsty sadistic nerd and use the GPS and computer controls in a car to commit the perfectly timed digital murder? ;)

  47. 47
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    Oh, and:

    no sex
    no drugs
    no wine
    no women
    no fun
    no sin
    no you
    no wonder it’s dark…

    I have the album. :)

  48. 48
    Tax Analyst says:

    This whole fiasco has got to hurt Toyota’s future sales. Who amongst you would rush out and buy one of their new models now? I agree with the earlier comment that folks may start to look at this brand as an inferior product. That’s certainly how I’m looking at them now.

    They might (or might not) avoid Congressional actions (like what, anyway?), but that won’t revive their reputation any time soon.

  49. 49
    soonergrunt says:

    My wife told me about the bill after she had paid it, and I was like WTF?! and she said that it was for the dog so that was where we should get it. I just about croaked.
    My wife is extremely smart about a great many things, but every so often (rarely but often enough) common sense seems to elude her, usually over something having to do with money.

    Oh well. I’ll go and lock my keys in my running car again and call a lock service and we’ll be equal.

  50. 50
    Tax Analyst says:

    @cincyanon:

    I drive a Ford but I’ve followed this pretty closely through the news. The numbers of problems are almost minuscule. 30 out of a million plus sold over a decade! I’m glad for the recall, there are something like 500 auto recalls a year for various reasons, but part of me also feels like there is a concerted effort to drive buyers to American owned car company products (nothing wrong with that!) by making Toyota’s problems seem bigger than they are

    No, no, no! The number of documented FATALITIES is thus far about 30. The number of incidents is quite a bit higher, especially if you try and factor in those initial complaints that were basically blown off by Toyota with false explanations. These guys went out of their way to deny and hide a very serious and potentially death-dealing defect.

    It’s the deception and deceit and the fact that some of this can be read on the record that makes Toyota’s problems large, not any “conspiracy” to get people to “buy American”.

    Toyota USED to have a very good reputation for quality and I think they’ve pretty much trashed that here. If they want to keep their sales volume anywhere near respectable they are going to have to drastically cut the prices for the near and not-so-near future.

  51. 51
    Mokichi says:

    Well, this “Turning Japanese” should distract people from ridiculous news (briefly NSFW due to cartoon nudity)

  52. 52
    wenchacha says:

    Haley Barbour is a chicken-fried Mr. Creosote. He always wants more.

  53. 53
    Mark S. says:

    I wonder if any economist or political scientist has calculated the bang these corporations get for their buck when it comes to political contributions. It seems like a million dollars in contributions can equal tens of billions in either govt contracts or tax breaks. There’s simply no better way to spend your money.

    I was also horrified at this:

    Based in Torrance, Toyota has had close ties to Rep. Jane Harman (D), who represents its district. Harman is the only member on a committee investigating Toyota who owned stock in the company in 2008, the most recent year for which members have filed financial disclosure statements. Both she and her husband, Sidney Harman, have holdings between $116,002 and $315,000, a marked rise from the prior year’s amounts, between $1,000 and $15,000. Harman International Industries, her husband’s company, has for years held lucrative contracts with Toyota, equipping cars with Harman Kardon audio systems.

    Geez, apparently this violates no ethical rules in Congress. Is conflict of interest a foreign concept in the legislative branch?

  54. 54
    Anne Laurie says:

    @soonergrunt:

    My dog seems to have an infected cyst on her jaw. The Vet drained it and gave us a prescription of antibiotics to put on her food.
    The same antibiotics a month ago for my daughter’s ear infection cost $4.00. Thank you, TRICARE!
    The antibiotics for the dog cost $51.00.

    If you’re on good terms with your pharmacist, you might be able to talk them into refilling the dog’s scrip on your ‘human’ bennie-card. I’m allergic to penecillin, so after my last root canal my dentist prescribed clindamycin; the pharmacist at the chain drugstore insisted on calling him “to be sure” because she’d only ever seen it prescribed for dogs & cats.

    But thank you for letting us know that your Fluffball will be okay, in the end… oh, and that reminds me: See if you can get FB to eat yogurt, or look for some ‘Gentle Digest’ tablets at the pet store, ’cause the clindamycin will indeed have an effect on her bowels, and your floors.

  55. 55
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    I wouldn’t hold my breath re: Americans starting to reject Toyota. While purely anecdotal, way too many people at work have told me they still trust Toyota because US/Detroit companies have hidden defects over the years. They were not able to give me any specifics other than the Pinto and the Bronco, but stressed that American companies are corrupt, so of course there were hidden problems. Foreign companies, clean as the driven snow and honest as can be. We are teh stupid.

  56. 56
    tom says:

    @steve: Toyota has no plants in Michigan. It has an R&D and design center in Ann Arbor, but no plants.

  57. 57
    tom says:

    @cheryl: People have long memories. The last Pinto rolled off the line 30 years ago, the last Bronco 20 years ago.

  58. 58
    JRon says:

    @Tax Analyst: this actually is a bigger deal than ford’s or even audi’s issues were. Audi’s acceleration problem in the 80’s cut their sales by about 85% and didn’t recover until 2000. in those cases there was one model with a specific problem, and this is many models hitting the news at once, with real audio of the first problem happening. (though 60 minutes’ video faking the audi acceleration wasd more effective)

    big difference for toyota is that reliability is its primary feature. they’ve pushed hard for years to become known as the safe choice, and now their bungling of the gas pedal situation by not addressing it head on and trying to pin blame on their US supplier led to so many other issues coming out all at once.

  59. 59
    Arclite says:

    Although, when it comes to car companies, they are all pretty much global corporations, despite their country of origin. GM has parts made all over the world for its cars, just like Toyota.

  60. 60
    robertdsc says:

    @de stijl:
    LOL. Fight Club references FTW.

  61. 61
    artem1s says:

    Well SCOTUS has seen to it that Toyota can just pay for its congresscritters directly now, so problem solved.

    There are 40,000 auto deaths a year in the US. keep that in mind while you listen to witnesses testify hysterically today and crunch numbers. If we actually cared about passenger safety we would have a much better developed mass transit system. The biggest problem with cars is user errors. No amount of investigations is going to change that.

    I lived through the Pinto and the Explorer investigations and sincerely this one seems a bit over the top. Maybe its just the internet and the way media coverage has changed but really I don’t remember NPR covering the first two in every broadcast for weeks on end. Toyota is now the biggest auto seller in the world and that really chaps the “apple pie and Chevrolet” set.

  62. 62
    soonergrunt says:

    @Anne Laurie:
    It’s not been pretty this morning…
    Yogurt? We’ll try that.

  63. 63
    soonergrunt says:

    @artem1s: I think it’s more the whole reputation that japanese cars, and toyotas in particular had for safety and reliability for so long.
    Now that’s under challenge because people are dying and getting hurt unnesscessarily in toyota cars while the quality and finish of american labels has never been better.
    Schadenfreude is a bitch, you know.

  64. 64
    Barry says:

    katherine

    “@soonergrunt: For some medications, my vet recommends taking the prescription to a pharmacy for humans because it’s cheaper.”

    I told a pharmacist (at CVS) about the problems I’d had getting a cat to take medicine; she told me to bring the prescription into them, and they’d mix it with flavor. She said that they had liver flavoring!

  65. 65
    Barry says:

    Mark S.

    “Geez, apparently this violates no ethical rules in Congress. ”

    The only reason that rep who got sent to prison got in trouble was taking bribes under $1 million, as far as I can tell :)

    “Is conflict of interest a foreign concept in the legislative branch?”

    No, it’s very, very native – like your native language, which you can speak in your sleep, or while drunk.

    I wish that conflict of interest was a foreign concept.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] February 23, 2010 It IS Weird Being A Voluntary Serf Posted by John O under Political | Tags: Balloon Juice, bought and paid-for Congresspeople, corporate The Man, DougJ, Toyota | Leave a Comment  I suppose I’m doing all right and that’s that, but the power Corporate Man has over us, including our health care, is a frightening thing indeed. […]

Comments are closed.