Interview with a *former* GM dealer

On May 20, the Anchorage Daily News ran a story with the headline: “Is Obama closing the Soldotna dealership?”

Staff writer Sean Cockerman in Anchorage wrote the following:

Gov. Sarah Palin’s new statement criticizing Barack Obama blames the president for the closure of a Soldotna car dealership.

But the dealership tells me it’s not closing.

Here’s the relevant part of the statement Palin put out through SarahPAC.

“Today, we learned that Obama’s decisions continue to impact Alaskans; while we as taxpayers now own General Motors, Obama closes another dealership – this time in Soldotna as more of Alaskans’ hard-earned money and jobs are lost to big government.”

Eric Dondero interviewed the Hutchings brothers for RedState.com, and got a different story from what the Anchorage Daily News was asserting.

In fact, both Shea and Shawn Hutchings, expressed their dissatisfaction with how the ADN spun their comments. Shawn Hutchings mentioned how he had to go back and forth through email with the reporter to ensure he got the story right. Finally, the reporter relented and published this statement from Hutchings as an Update on the news blog:

The bottom line is this: Governor Palin is correct: Soldotna lost a new car dealership as part of the federal intervention. 44 local jobs were terminated. Over a million dollars in annual payroll was lost. The net effect to Soldotna is substantial. Obama’s actions have directly impacted Alaska and Soldotna. The Governor is correct.

Contrary to what the newspaper version originally published, the Hutchings brothers both confirmed that the bulk of the dealership is indeed closing down. As one brother described it; the “lifeblood,” of the dealership will be closed. Both brothers have their suspicions that indeed politics may have played a role in their ultimate closure, in the “boardrooms of Detroit.”

Interview with Shea Hutchings, Soldotna City Councilman & Hutchings GM Dealership Asst. General Manager

ERIC: First, do you think that the Anchorage Daily News misrepresented what happened at your dealership?

SHEA: Yes.

ERIC: And why do you think that they may have done that?

SHEA: Tough to say… With the Anchorage Daily News they take such a liberal point of view. They went out of their way to connect this to Governor Palin.

ERIC: So, you’re closing the dealership?

SHEA: We’re closing the lifeblood of the dealership. Yes, we are closing. They misreported the story… not an accurate portrayal of what is happening.

ERIC: You serve as a City Councilman there in Soldotna, and I’m sure you run as non-partisan, but officially do you consider yourself to be a Republican?

SHEA: I am a registered Republican. I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life. I am a Karl Rove neoconservative Republican, not a Sarah Palin grass roots Republican. I’m more of a Christian Conservative Mike Huckabee sort, more so than a libertarian Republican.

I can tell you right now that the Hutchings have donated thousands of dollars to GOP candidates… That certainly could have played a role in the boardroom decisions in Detroit. We hosted a fundraiser for Ted Stevens. There are definitely a lot of Republican connections to this family.

Shawn Hutchings, General Manager, GM Dealership, Soldotna

ERIC: Do you believe that politics may have played a role in the decisions to close down your dealership?

SHAWN: I can’t imagine why they’re targeting dealerships. There’s no question there might have been. In fact, our franchise is gone… 44 employees laid off.

ERIC: And the article in the Anchorage Daily News?

SHAWN: They put their spin on it…

ERIC: Any thoughts on why Obama and the folks in Washington might be doing this?

SHAWN: Dealerships do not cost the manufacturer money, so why would the administration make it a qualification to get loans from the government? Why is the government involved in dictating who will and who will not be in business. Shouldn’t the free market be governing society?

Eric Dondero is founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a former Libertarian Party national committeeman and a co-founder of the historic website Draft Sarah Palin for VP. He blogs at Libertarian Republican.

– JP