Presidential candidates aren't the only office seekers banned from appearing at General Motors plants and facilities until Election Day-- the facilities are also off-limits to members of Congress and their challengers.
GM banned President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney from visiting its facilities during campaign season in an effort to avoid becoming a campaign talking point, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday. GM spokeswoman Heather Rosenker confirmed to the Alley that the ban extends to all elected officials.
"We don't want to be a political platform," she said in explaining the "across-the-board" ban. "We are focused on building and selling cars and the needs of our customers. That's what we want to focus on."
The success of the company since its 2009 federally financed bankruptcy has made it a focus of both parties. Obama and other Democrats often take credit for the company's success, whereas Romney criticizes the bailout as a burden on taxpayers.
"GM sees no purpose of taking on either party and just wishes the whole thing would go away and people would start treating them like a normal automobile company," former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told the Detroit Free Press. He now serves as a consultant for the company.
Until today, GM regularly invited senators, representatives and mayors to attend plant ceremonies announcing good news. The events were separate from political campaigns and arranged with state offices, not campaign staff.
"Whenever we have good news or news to announce at a facility, whether we're investing more money as a company in it, we always engage with our elected officials and invite them," Rosenker told the Alley. "That's normal; that's standard operating procedure; and we have great relationships with all those members of Congress."
On other occasions, candidates would arrange tours or visits to GM facilities. Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-GOP nominee Sen. John McCain all toured GM facilities during the 2008 campaign.
Both types of visit have been banned until after Election Day.
"Between now and until Nov. 6, we are not engaging with elected officials at our facilities-- announcement or otherwise," Rosenker said. "We may save announcements for after the election."
The 11 House members who represent districts housing GM's largest assembly plants had little to say about the policy's effect on their campaign schedules. Even Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio who has made the auto bailout a key feature of his reelection campaign, will not see major tactical changes because of the ban, according to his campaign.
"Sherrod Brown is proud of his work championing the auto rescue in Ohio and looks forward to continuing his working relationship with GM, as well as workers and businesses of all stripes across the state," Brown campaign spokesman Justin Barasky stated.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, had a similar reaction to the ban. GM's Arlington assembly plant is in his district and he has attended several groundbreaking and other official events there, though he has never campaigned at the plant.
"I have enjoyed a solid relationship with them throughout my years in Congress, and I will continue to work with them," Barton stated via e-mail. "The men and women of that facility should not be viewed as political assets by either party, but rather as assets to the Arlington community. They are the lifeblood of this great city."
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