WASHINGTON (Oct. 2)—The automotive industry has contributed more than $55 million to federal candidates and political parties since 1990, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration´s budget has shrunk 36 percent since 1980, according to political and auto activist groups. Organizations such as Common Cause, Public Campaign, Consumers Union and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety joined in a news conference to call not only for legislation expanding NHTSA´s powers related to product defects, but also for Congressional action to curtail campaign contributions by special interests. "Every industry follows the same strategy—give to the very politicians who are regulating them," said Nick Nyhart, executive director of Public Campaign. Large campaign contributions give tire and auto lobbyists disproportionate clout in framing auto safety legislation, according to Rosemary Shahan of CARS. The current House and Senate bills to strengthen NHTSA´s recall powers are "under assault by corporate criminal interests that want to get away with murder," Shahan said.