Judicial Watch Sues Treasury Department for Documents Related to Obama Administration Sale of Delaware GM Plant
JANUARY 19, 2010
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Treasury Department to obtain documents related to automotive start-up Fisker’s purchase of a former GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware, Vice President Biden’s home state. The Department of Energy made possible the purchase of the plant with a $528.7 million taxpayer-funded loan for Fisker. The company plans to use the plant to produce a new line of hybrid electric vehicles set to launch in 2012.
On October 27, 2009, in a press event announcing the plant reopening, Vice President Biden made news by inadvertently revealing Fisker’s undisclosed plans to produce 100,000 plug-in hybrid sedans, coupes and crossovers. At the conclusion of his speech, Biden told the crowd of mostly UAW workers, who had previously worked at the plant when it was owned by General Motors, “imagine when this factory, when the floor we’re standing on right now is making 100,000 plug-in hybrid sedans, coupes and crossovers every single year.”
Fisker’s selection of the plant, and Vice President’s participation in the press conference announcing the plant reopening as well as his intimate knowledge of Fisker’s production plans, raised questions in the auto industry as to whether there was any quid pro quo arrangement with the Vice President related to the purchase, especially given the fact that a large government loan made the purchase possible. (Moreover, given that the federal government is the majority owner of GM, there are other potential conflicts of interest related to this deal that merit investigation.)
According to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judicial Watch seeks access to “any and all records regarding the sale of General Motor Company’s Wilmington, Delaware plant to Fisker Automotive, Inc.” The time frame for the request is August 1 — October 31, 2009.
Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request with the Treasury Department November 2, 2009. Treasury acknowledged receipt of the request and, on November 9th, granted itself additional time for processing. A response was due December 16th. However, to date, Treasury has failed to produce any documents or demonstrate why documents are exempt from production.
“The Obama administration needs to come clean with respect to how this deal was struck,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Vice President Biden had inside knowledge about Fisker’s purchase of a plant based in his home state, creating at least the appearance of impropriety. Taxpayers have half a billion dollars at stake in a controversial and expensive business idea. And now that the federal government has an ownership stake in the auto industry, its decisions must be completely transparent in order to root out any possible corruption.”