Richard Shelby: United States Senator or Foreign Corporate Agent?

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby has emerged as the leader of Republican opposition to a federal rescue of the Big Three U.S. automakers. Shelby would have us believe that his position flows out of a deep belief in market forces. “The strength of the American system,” he said recently,” is it allows us to take risks—to create, to innovate, to grow, to succeed and sometimes to fail.”

While Shelby (seen in photo with Saddam Hussein) is credited by some for consistency in that he also opposed the big federal bailout of financial institutions, he’s been called a hypocrite because his home state lavished major economic development subsidies on Asian and European automakers—a total of more than $750 million to Mercedes, Honda, Toyota and Hyundai over the past 15 years. These transplants, all non-union, have given the Yellowhammer State one of the country’s largest auto sectors, albeit one that is foreign controlled.

Shelby insists that Alabama’s handouts to the foreign automakers are not relevant to the current debate, but what he and his critics are both ignoring is that the funds channeled to the likes of Mercedes and Honda have not been only state and local. The federal government has also provided assistance to the transplants, and Shelby, along with other members of the Alabama Congressional delegation, helped that happen.

A stroll through the archives of Alabama’s newspapers on Nexis makes this clear. In 1993, when Mercedes was lured to the state with a $250 million incentive package, Shelby praised the deal, stating: “Alabama put together a smart investment package that in both the short and long term will yield solid results for our state” (Birmingham News, 9/29/93). Federal money helped pay for some of the highway improvements that were promised to Mercedes to make the site more appealing (Birmingham News, 10/21/93).

In 1999, when Honda was induced to build a plant in Alabama with a $250 million package of its own, the Alabama delegation quickly mobilized. On May 7, 1999, Michael Brumas of the Birmingham News reported: “Alabama members of Congress said Thursday they will be looking for ways the federal government can help underwrite part of the costs associated with building the new Honda plant at Lincoln. And the lawmakers pledged to help the automaker maneuver through the federal bureaucracy as it prepares to build the plant.” The article said Shelby, as chair of a transportation appropriations subcommittee, was expected to funnel money for road projects near the site.

In 2001, when the Korean automaker Hyundai was deciding where to locate its first U.S. plant, Shelby and other members of the Alabama delegation met with the company (Birmingham News, 10/11/01). After the state won the plant with yet another package of around $250 million, Shelby arranged for $445,000 in federal funds to go to the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission, which planned to arrange free bus and van service to take construction workers to the Hyundai site (Montgomery Advertiser, 9/10/02). And these are only the cases that found their way into the press.

Shelby is far from the only senator to have used his office to arrange for federal funds to help a company in his state. But the fact that Shelby has worked so hard for the foreign automakers and now opposes measures deemed necessary to protect the jobs of three million American workers in the auto industry and related sectors makes one wonder whether he should be seen as a U.S. Senator or a foreign corporate agent.

5 thoughts on “Richard Shelby: United States Senator or Foreign Corporate Agent?”

  1. Thank you so much for this information. I am also curious about Senators Corker and Sessions. I view Shebly and Corker as the two biggest reasons that the Emergency Auto Bridge Loan failed and two of the biggest Congressional sources of misinformation concerning the Detroit Big Three; and I want as much dirt on them as possible.

  2. It’s time to let the sunlight in about those Senators that said no to bridge loans for our American auto manufacturers and no to unionized American workers, the heart of our middle class. I include the Blue Dog Demos in this group as well as our free trading Republicans that have been the most vociferous in this Capitol Hill debate. There is lots more to uncover here!

  3. Hooray! for Shelby,..If Shelby had not gotten the foreign auto industry to come to Alabama then Tennessee,Mississippi or Georgia would have and Alabama would have lost jobs and millions of dollars.Comparing the Detroit auto makers to Honda,Mercedes, and Hyundai is like comparing the Model T Ford to the space shuttle.

  4. Typical political crap. If you wave money in front of a politician in this country they’ll sell out there own country so fast they beat the invasion force to washington…even if they’re in Alabama. Here are some facts; 1) The Unions have already made a deal to take over the retirement and healthcare costs by 2010(Fair trade is our companies going up against Japanese subsidized ones(Retirement & health care payed by Japanese Gov’) 2) Ford has 2 vehicles that beat any competitors Hybrids(Fusion and Escape) 3) Noone but GM has duel-mode hybrids; Need a truck or SUV? Need to tow something? Gm Hybrid trucks and Tahoe get 21/20 mpg. 3) Yes, 10 years ago USA cars were 5% behind in Quality; But what about now? Ford Fusion is the highest quality family car…period. Buick quality has surpassed LEXUS! Makes you USA haters grind your teeth, doesn’t it. At least buying foreign doesn’t have an effect on the economy, right? OOPS!!! 80-90% of the profits are corporate. Buy Japanese and help them crush us, or buy the Fusion assembled in Mex’ and help them with good jobs while elliminating part of border problem, and profits go to Detroit. The Japanese don’t pay USA taxes…

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