Bail Out

Is Congress Micromanaging GM?

Worried about heavy investments in bailed-out corporations, the federal government has outgrown the moniker “big brother”—and is now a helicopter parent. Lawmakers are citing it as their "patriotic duty" (as Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg put it) to butt into business affairs at GM, Chrysler Group LLC, and Bank of America. “The simple fact is, when GM took federal dollars, they lost some of their autonomy,” Rehberg explains. Congressmen have pushed for caps on executive pay, forced out top managers, been vocal critics of business decisions—and, sometimes, promoted local agendas. For instance, both Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords convinced GM to rescind closure orders for dealerships in their regions, while others push for pet technologies or processes that bolster their districts. Executives complain that the government's heavy-handed involvement is rocking the boat and interfering with business, which is one reason some have rushed to return their money to Washington. GM has received the brunt of this unwanted attention, and the Journal details dozens of D.C.-initiated ideas and business decisions in its report.