Conflicts Of Interest In The Toyota Problem

Today’s Washington Examiner posted a story about the obvious conflict of interest involved in the government hearings on the Toyota acceleration issue.  First of all, there is the obvious problem that the government holding the hearings has a controlling financial interest in General Motors–Toyota is one of General Motors’ biggest competitors.  The other problem is that one of the largest contributors to the Democrat party (currently in control of Congress, thus holding the hearings) is the United Auto Workers Union.  Toyota has successfully avoided being unionized at its manufacturing plants in America.  The article points out that 19 of the 36 Democrats on the committee investigating Toyota received large contributions from the UAW for their 2010 campaigns.  That includes the chairman of the committee, Henry Waxman.

The article points out:

“Nineteen of 36 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee cashed sizable UAW campaign contribution checks to their 2010 re-election campaigns, including the present and immediate past chairmen, Henry Waxman and John Dingell. Similarly, 12 of 25 Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee got such checks. Are Democrats who have long claimed that money corrupts politics now so brazen as to claim they are exempt from such special interests influences?”

The obvious conflict of interest makes it nearly impossible to come to an objective and practical plan of action to prevent future safety issues in any auto company.

There is another problem with the hearings.  The two ‘expert’ witnesses that Congress has called have a history with American automobile manufacturing.  Joan Claybrook was the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under Jimmy Carter.  She was responsible for forcing car makers to install air bags.  She pushed the requirement through despite warnings that the technology needed further development in order to avoid killing infants and children.  Because of her actions, at least 65 deaths resulted, including infants and children.  The other expert is Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, who condoned the use of rocket ignitors in the NBC report that stated that GM pickup trucks were dangerous.  Both these people have histories in the auto industry that are questionable at best, and their testimonies should be viewed with skepticism.

Auto manufactures should be held to a high standard of safety in the product they manufacture, but I question the objectivity of this committee when they choose to overlook some of the major recalls on other cars, such as the Chevy Cobalt.  Because it is owned by the government, Chevy will probably be given a pass on any safety problems it has in the near future.,