Campaigners not welcome at car plants

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IOL mot aug29 obama

AFP

US President Barack Obama seen speaking with workers as he toured a Ford plant in Chicago in 2010.

General Motors and Chrysler, which both received billions of dollars in government help to stay afloat during the recent recession, said they will not allow presidential candidates to make stops at their plants.

President Barack Obama often touts the financial health of both GM and Chrysler and has appeared at vehicle plants of both companies frequently in the past several years.

While the federal government still owns 26 percent of GM's shares, Obama cannot go to a GM plant until after the 6 November election, GM said.

GM's policy has been not to allow campaign stops at its plants, said spokeswoman Heather Rosenker, since it became a new company in 2009 after the former GM went into bankruptcy protection and emerged after a $49.5 billion bailout from the U.S. Treasury.

GM does not want to be the focus of attention for the auto bailout in the presidential campaign.

“It pulls us off focus and the reality is we need to stay focused,” said Rosenker. “The company is doing great. We've had 10 consecutive profitable quarters and we want to stay profitable.”

Chrysler, which has paid off its government loans, has also decided not to allow Obama or Romney at its plants.

“This fall, Chrysler will not host campaign events inside its facilities,” said the company in a statement. “The company is focused on meeting production demands.”

Chrysler, during the 2008 campaign, was owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 part-owned and managed by Italy's Fiat SpA . Fiat is now Chrysler's majority owner.

And Ford, which borrowed heavily in the debt markets and did not need any bailout cash, also will not allow presidential campaign visits.

Obama, as president, has spoken at several GM and Chrysler plants, but that was before the campaign became a two-man race with Romney.

Obama and his 2008 Republican rival John McCain both spoke at GM plants during the campaign, but that was before the first bailout money went to GM and Chrysler under President George W. Bush.

“We have a long-standing policy of not allowing political campaigning at our manufacturing or other facilities,” said Ford in a statement.

“We do allow current government officials to visit our plants at any time for educational purposes, and we provide educational opportunities for candidates in a non-partisan manner so they can learn more about auto manufacturing. As a highly-regulated, complex industry, it is important that government officials understand our business as they consider public policy,” Ford said. -Reuters


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