GM throws fundraiser for Rep. Knollenberg
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington
WASHINGTON -- Top executives at General Motors Corp. helped out an auto industry friend Tuesday, holding a fundraiser in Detroit for U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Township.
GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner hosted the 90-minute reception at a private club on the 36th floor of the Renaissance Center, the same building that houses GM's corporate headquarters.
The event Tuesday evening raised $45,000, said Bryce Sandler, Knollenberg's finance director. Knollenberg expects to raise a total of $3.5 million to $4 million for his 2008 re-election campaign, Sandler said.
About 50 people -- mostly GM executives -- attended the reception, Sandler said, and most were donating $1,000 each. Those included Tim Lee, GM's vice president for manufacturing, Beth Lowery, vice president for environment and energy, and the company's chief lobbyist, Ken Cole, who is vice president for government relations. Several GM dealers attended as well, including David Fischer, CEO of the Troy-based Suburban Collection.
While it is not unusual for auto executives to write checks to support lawmakers, it is unusual for so many high-ranking GM officials to throw a fundraiser.
Knollenberg has been an especially aggressive defender of the Detroit Three automakers, centered on his strong opposition to hefty Corporate Average Fuel Economy increases. His campaign also paid for a billboard -- "Arnold to Michigan: Drop Dead" -- spotlighting California's efforts to regulate auto emissions, and solicited $3 contributions to fund a Web site, Big3defense.com, to support automakers.
GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz -- who contributed $1,000 to Knollenberg's campaign, but didn't attend the event -- said his support of Knollenberg was coincidental to the lawmaker's opposition to fuel economy proposals that could cost Detroit automakers $85 billion.
"To be honest, I just like him," Lutz said.
GM spokesman Greg Martin said the decision to hold the fundraiser in Detroit was a matter of logistics.
"It makes it convenient for our senior leadership to recognize Mr. Knollenberg," Martin said. "He, along with the Michigan delegation, have really been an effective voice for us this year in a challenging climate."