Vested Interests

Watchdogs Eye Politicians' Toyota Ties

Are lawmakers in cahoots with carmakers? As Congress prepares to start hearings Wednesday on Toyota's massive recall, government watchdog groups are investigating the deep financial and personal ties between the two groups. Toyota, a major lobbying force in Washington, boasts close ties to a number of the same lawmakers who will lead inquiries into the safety problems that have forced the company to recall more than 8 million vehicles. Toyota, with 31 lobbyists in Washington last year, dished out nearly $25 million on federal regulatory and legislative matters in the last five years. No other foreign automaker comes close. More than a dozen lawmakers are personally invested in the firm, with Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) reporting six-figures in Toyota stock. Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) helped the company found a factory in West Virginia.