More than 60 percent of congressmen who received campaign contributions from the national association representing used-car dealers have sponsored legislation to bar the Federal Trade Commission from imposing consumer-information rules on the industry, a new study reveals.
According to a survey by the public-interest group Public Citizen, the National Automobile Dealers Association contributed more than $500,000 in campaign funds to 276 congressmen between Jan. 1, 1979, and June 30, 1981. Jay Angoff, a lawyer for Public Citizen, said the sum was one of the largest ever given by a single political action committee.
Public Citizen's study showed 63 percent of the congressmen who received contributions from NADA have signed on as cosponsors of the legislation. On the other hand, of the 159 congressmen who didn't get any NADA contributions, only 20 percent have agreed to cosponsor the resolution.
Of the 206 cosponsors in the House, 85 percent, or 175 members, received contributions from NADA. In the Senate, 21 of the 41 cosponsors received NADA funds.
The contributions were made at the same time NADA was fighting FTC's proposal to require used-car dealers to give consumers more information about the used cars they sell--disclosing in writing any major defects they know about the cars as well as the guarantees they offer.
The rule, subsequently made final this fall, is being reviewed by Congress. Under a recent law, Congress can veto the rule if a majority of both houses approves a resolution of disapproval. Congressional aides predict a veto is highly likely.
Hearings on the resolution are scheduled next week in the House; the Senate Commerce Committee, having conducted hearings a few weeks ago, is scheduled to vote on the veto in two weeks.
"The correlation between contributions and cosponsors of the bill is very, very high," Angoff said. "We're not saying anyone's taking a bribe or sold their soul, but the contributions apparently have some influence."
NADA and members of Congress, however, disagreed.
"If they are accusing 206 members of Congress with wrongdoing, they are really out of line," said Frank McCarthy, NADA's executive vice president.
Sen. James Abdnor (R-S.D.), one of the five congressmen who received $10,000 from NADA, denounced the report, saying, "It is absurd to suggest that I would make any promises regarding future legislation in exchange for any one of hundreds of campaign contributions."
Others receiving $10,000 from NADA included: Rep. Lynn Martin (R-Ill), Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) and Sen. Steve Symms (R-Idaho). All were cosponsors of the veto resolution.
However, at least two senators who received $5,000 from NADA have indicated they will oppose the legislation: Russell Long (D-La.) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash.).