Toyota Has Donated to Investigating Reps.

When Toyota's executives arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday to testify before a House committee about their handling of dangerous safety defects, they weren't exactly walking into enemy territory.

They've spent years courting the very congressmen who are now charged with investigating them, as CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

Over the past decade, Toyota has made contributions to 40 of the 125 members who sit on the three relevant committees, a total of $135,000 in campaign cash.

In the past five years, Toyota has spent $25 million lobbying the federal government, far more than foreign rivals Honda ($10.3 million) and Nissan ($15.5 million), though it pales in comparison to what U.S. automaker General Motors spent - a staggering $53.1 million over the same time period.

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"This is the game that is played in Washington unfortunately and this is exactly how's it's played," said Mary Boyle of the nonpartisan government accountability group Common Cause "The bottom line is the money has an effect on your judgment,. It influences you. It just does."

West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller, who heads the Senate investigation, once joked that he should be considered a member of Toyota's "site selection" team after convincing the carmaker to build a plant in his state.

And then there are the members who own Toyota stock, anywhere from a few hundred dollars worth, like Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas to upwards of $100,000 in the case of California's Jane Harman.

Despite all that money, Rep. Darrell Issa insists Toyota won't get off easy.

"Well you know Bill Gates gives me money but it doesn't make me a Microsoft apologist," he said.

Issa has been one of the most aggressive backers of the investigation, even though the Viper security system he manufactured before coming to Congress was installed in thousands of Toyotas.

"Knowledge of an industry, particularly of automotive electronics in this case, has been helpful for me to understand what they could do, what they need to do, and how potentially dangerous cars can become if they don't install and maintain failsafe systems," he said.
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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