AP: Lawmakers investigating Toyota have previous ties to the automaker

It looks like the Toyota recall mess is going to keep getting messier. Today we're hearing that there might be some, let's say, inappropriate ties between the Japanese automaker and the lawmakers that have been investigating its recent round of recalls. The Associated Press reports that the group of investigators includes "a senator who was so eager to lure the Japanese automaker to his state that he tramped along through fields as its executives scouted plant sites, and a congresswoman who owes much of her wealth to a Toyota supplier."

Several other members of the congressional committees on the case are said to represent states that host Toyota manufacturing facilities as well, an obvious conflict of interest when you think of the possibility that sanctions against Toyota could jeopardize constituent jobs. It's certainly not hard to understand why some people might question their objectivity.

As if that weren't bad enough, one of Toyota's executives is reported to be a former worker at one of those federal agencies that's supposed to be keeping an eye on the automaker. Lead Toyota investigator in the Senate, West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller, goes so far as to say he felt like part of the selection committee when Toyota chose the site for its plant in Buffalo, West Virginia. And yet Rockefeller apparently thinks it's fine to stay on the committee.

On the House side of Congress, the investigating panel includes California Rep. Jane Harman, who happens to host Toyota's U.S. headquarters in her district. Harman and her husband, Sidney, also reportedly own at least $115,000 in Toyota stock. Harman International Industries, a company founded by Sidney Harman, also sells audio and entertainment systems to Toyota, and has earned millions in the process.

The ties to Toyota fall on both sides of the aisle as well, so neither party is likely to point fingers any time soon. We'll keep an eye on this part of the Toyota case, just like the rest of the story, as it continues to develop.

[Source: Associated Press via MSNBC]

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