Photo credit AP/PACER

A Michigan lobbyist is trying to prevent the release of his emails that pertain to the state’s anti-Tesla law, passed in 2014 by purported free-market capitalists who, coincidentally, received a significant chunk of campaign money from the auto dealers who supported the legislation. The lobbyist says he has already been on the receiving end of some colorful hate mail—“you’re lazy, incompetent, self-serving pieces of shit”—and he’s trying to stop the release of any additional communications, saying it could lead to “physical reprisal against me.”

Tesla has been duking it out in federal court with Michigan officials for nearly a year now because of the state’s law that buckled to traditional automakers and banned Tesla’s method of selling vehicles to consumers. The lawsuit was filed after Michigan’s secretary of state rejected Tesla’s dealership application, in lieu of the 2014 law.

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As the case plods along, Tesla has been trying to pry loose emails and communications between traditional automakers and lobbyists who helped craft the law in question.

Electrek first noted the recent court filing from Kurt Berryman, who runs government relations for the Michigan Auto Dealers Association and the Detroit Auto Dealers Association. Berryman intervened in the case and asked for relief from the judge because of a subpoena from Tesla that asks him to disclose his emails and communications about the law.

“Due to the fact that I have been served a subpoena seeking documents and related communications with dealers regarding Tesla and legislation that relates to the direct sale or service of vehicles by manufacturers to consumers, I have already begun to suffer cognizable harm and my speech and participation with the Associations has been chilled,” he wrote in a court filing.

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Berryman said the associations have withdrawn his invitation to several events, while legislator and their staff have seized up and gone mum ever since Tesla served him with the subpoena.

He goes on:

For instance, I can state with certainty that if the private, non-public communications I have had with ADM’s members or directors and/or their affiliated members were ordered disclosed through discovery in this matter, it will drastically and negatively impact how I communicate with those individuals and entities in the future. I will be far less willing to engage in frank communications that benefit those individuals and entities if those communications will be exposed to compelled disclosure by some other individual or entity who files a lawsuit after failing to obtain its legislative goals.

Toward the end, he adds that disclosure of his efforts as a lobbyist who worked to influence lawmakers on the bill could lead to “economic or physical reprisal against me.” The auto dealers received hate mail right after the bill was passed in 2014.

What sort of hate mail? The first one Berryman cites is a bit tame.

Your association is full of terrible people. everyone [sic] hates auto dealers and your support of the anti-Tesla language is just one more reason to hate you guys.

I will continue to ensure that I never purchase a vehicle from an autodealer again.

P.S. Screw you guys.

The next message is a bit more forceful.

Michigan Auto Dealers are too incompetent to compete in free private, public market for their good and so they have to go to the state legislator to protect themselves from competition. You sound like you such a lot of communist cock because you’re lazy, incompetent, self-serving pieces of shit who don’t believe in free market competition. Have a crappy day.

That’s why Berryman asserts in the filing, which you can view below, that he could face similar “or worse” economic hardships or physical reprisal, if he has to turn over his communications. (That a purported capitalist like Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed the anti-Tesla bill into law makes the latter example a tad ironic and funny.)

Tesla has said in court that the communications are crucial for it to illustrate the law’s “protectionist motivations.” If successful, the automaker’s move could provide fascinating insight on the ins and outs of lobbyists and how they seek to influence lawmakers.

The suit names as defendants Michigan’s secretary of state, Ruth Johnson; Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette; along with Snyder. The parties are due back in court for a scheduling conference early next month.