This is's replica of former State Senator McClintock's column. (McClintock was elected to Congress in 2008.) Nothing has been changed, added, or removed.

The Auto Club's Breakdown

Senator Tom McClintock
Date: April 3, 2001
Publication Type: Column

The Automobile Club of Southern California, whose most visible service is rescuing members whose cars have broken down, is suffering something of a breakdown of its own. But it is the far less visible activities of the club in Sacramento that has produced some serious car trouble for the board of directors. For the first time in its history, the board is being challenged by a gritty group of rank-and-file members who are fed up with the positions the Automobile Club has taken on measures of direct interest to California motorists.

The Board has already lost one court ruling after the challengers filed a lawsuit against the board’s refusal to list their names on the official ballot. The club’s 3.2 million members received a ballot with only the names of the candidates backed by the board, along with a campaign letter supporting them. The court ruled this was not exactly a fair election, and ordered new ballots listing ALL the candidates – a radical notion more commonly known as “democracy.” Publicly, the board has accused the insurgents of attempting a “partisan take-over” of the venerable Automobile Club, and has accused Republican officials, including myself, of involvement.

Though I have not been involved with the challenge, other than to wish the challengers well, I have privately expressed great frustration with the positions taken by the club, which seem to be in direct opposition to the interests of its membership. And since my name has been used repeatedly by Auto Club officials as an “instigator” of the election challenge, perhaps it is time to state them publicly as well.

Just last year alone, as vice-chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, I watched in awe as the Automobile Club:

  • Opposed legislation to lift the diamond lane restrictions on our roads;
  • Supported legislation to allow local speed traps, by over-riding the legal requirement that speeds must be set according to recognized traffic engineering standards;
  • Refused to support legislation to abolish the car tax, despite the fact that not a dime of that tax is used to support our roads;
  • Refused to support legislation to repeal the sales tax on gasoline, despite the fact that not a dime of that tax is used to support our roads;
  • Refused to support legislation to redirect the sales tax on gasoline FOR road construction;
  • Refused to support legislation to give the Governor emergency authority to expedite freeway construction on gridlocked stretches of highway.

These are issues where reasonable people may disagree. But it is very unlikely that most motorists would believe that these positions are advocating their interests. And yet, members’ dues and the name of the Automobile Club have been used in precisely this manner before the transportation committees of the state legislature.

The established board has accused the challengers of an attempted partisan take-over of the “non-partisan” club. How is it that taking positions on legislation that are diametrically opposed to the interests of motorists is “non-partisan,” but questioning those positions becomes a “partisan takeover.” By this reasoning, support for diamond lanes is “non-partisan,” but opposing them is “partisan.” Opposing taxes on motorists that don’t go for roads is a “partisan” position the Auto Club should avoid, but turning decades of California law on its head to re-introduce local speed traps is a “non-partisan” approach in the interest of California motorists.

One wonders how most motorists feel. Indeed, the National Motorists Association has taken positions 180-degrees different from the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The Auto Club’s four incumbents have a special advantage in the race. They have used vast sums of club funds to promote their candidacies, while the challengers have had to rely upon their own resources. But many members may nevertheless wish to question the legislative positions the Auto Club has taken, in their name, with their money, on issues that directly affect their interests as motorists.

Fortunately for them, there are other automobile associations that offer both roadside service AND positions that actually support the interests of average motorists. And that is the ultimate election every member may make on his or her own.