Candidate Coats Rails Against Government Takeovers — After Lobbying On TARP For Chrysler’s Parent Company

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Former Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) is running for his old Senate seat, apparently on a platform of opposing government takeover of the private sector. But as it turns out, in 2008 he lobbied the Senate on the TARP bill, on behalf of none other than Chrysler’s parent company.

The NBC affiliate in South Bend quoted Coats early this week, explaining why he was returning to politics. “Well, nobody anticipated that government’s going to try to run auto companies, bank insurance companies, take over the private sector,” said Coats.

However, according to a federal lobbying report for the third quarter of 2008, Coats served as a lobbyist on behalf of Cerberus Capital Management, the firm that owned a majority share in Chrysler. The subject matter of the lobbying: The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 — a.k.a. the TARP bailout. The issue listed for lobbying: “Treatment of motor vehicle finance companies as financial institutions, disposition of troubled assets, and related issues.”Cerberus Capital Management bought an 80% stake in Chrysler in 2007. In December 2008, Chrysler received a loan of $4 billion from the Treasury Department, and has received about $6 billion more since then. In March 2009, Cerberus lost its equity stake as part of the bailout.

So is there a conflict between Coats’ criticism of government trying to run big companies, and what looks like Coats having lobbied on the subject of government aid for business?

Coats’s campaign press secretary Pete Seat says that despite what the lobbying filings show, Coats did not seek bailout help for Chrysler. “Dan Coats never lobbied on behalf of Chrysler in pursuing federal assistance. Anything to the contrary is false and pure politics,” Seat told us.

Instead, Seat says, Coats was lobbying for “small business” loan guarantees. Seat says: “Dan’s only related work was on behalf of small businesses – the very lifeblood of our economy – to ensure they could raise the capital needed to increase production, inventory and add jobs. Dan Coats did more for job growth in the third quarter of 2008 than Democrats did in all of 2009.”

When we asked why Coats was listed as a lobbyist for Cerberus, a giant investment company, if he was lobbying for small business, Seat responded, “Dan advocated for small businesses in 2008 on giving the Department of the Treasury the authority to guarantee consumer and small business loans.”

We specifically asked again, what the nature was of Coats’s lobbying on the bailout bill for Chrysler’s parent company, and what benefit they would get from it.

Seat declined to identify which small businesses benefitted from Coats lobbying effort, and would not say how or if Cerberus benefitted as well: “The provision related to small businesses in a broad sense and was not targeted at any specific business.”

A representative for Coats’s former lobbying firm, King & Spalding, told us that the company does not discuss the work they do for their clients. A representative for Cerberus has not returned our request for comment.

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