General Motors Corp. "took its place in the line with scores of other American business" in promotiong what former GM executive John Z. De Lorean describes "at the very least improper political campaign contributions from its top executives."
In a chapter on "how moral men make immoral decisions "from De Lorean's account of 17 years with GM, the former executive, said the nation's lsthrdy industrial film had a complicated and "far more secretive" corporate political donation system than at other companies which have paid fines.
During a national presidential campaign, GM solicitations from its executives "most likely totaled in the hundred of thousand of dollars" while off-year elections produced lower amounts, he stated in the book, "On A Clear Day You See General Motors."
The sums, according to De Lorean, were big. A GM vice president might give $3,000 in a presidential campaign and a few hundred dollars for a city election, according to his account.
Moreover, De Lorean stated that GM took notice of contributions in bonus payments paid back to the executives. The former GM officer said that at one point he refused to participate further and that "top management hit the roof."
He quoted a GM superior as telling him: "John, you'd better damn well play this game . . . we take care of you at bonus time. When you make this contribution you get that back as part of your bonus. And if you don't make it then you aren't going to get that much bonus."
GM spokesmen have declined to discuss allegations made in the De Lorean book, covering a 17-year period that ended in 1973.
The company's 1976 annual report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, did reveal "minor deviations" from its standards and some small commissions overseas that may have been improper.
GM's report at that time also mentioned "a minor" isolated instance of contributions out of employe money in 1972 and prior years that "appears not to have been in compliance with applicable law."
Asked whether this section in the SEC report could reflect the payments described in the book, a GM spokesman said only that DeLorean was in no way connected with the situation described in the SECdocument.
According to the DeLorean book, written by J. Patrick Wright, the contributions system was operated by the financial side of the business with assistance from public relations people.
According to the former GM officer, middle and upper managment persons were allowed to contribute to the partly of their choice. Once an executive reached top levels, "it was decided for him how much he would go," he stated.
De Lorean recounted a specific case where a divisional controller walked into his office with a sheet of paper that listed the amount of money he was to donate that year for national, state or local campaigns.
"I was told to make a check out to cash for the amount assigned to me and give it to the contriller who returned it to the corporation. Once the check was made out, an executive did not know for whom the political conribution was made, or in the manner it was made: Whether it was an anonymous cash contribution, one that was made in his name or a corporate gift," De Lorean stated in the book.