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Congressional Advocate Of Earnhardt Jr.’s National Guard Sponsorship Got Big Donations From Hendrick Motorsports

Rick Hendrick, who owns the NASCAR team Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives for, has given thousands to a North Carolina congresswoman since 2003. This week she spoke out against ending military sports advertising campaigns.

Alex Brandon / AP

A top advocate for keeping federal money flowing to the Hendrick Motorsports racing team has received $15,300 in donations from the group’s owner.

When the House of Representatives voted this week on whether to halt military spending on sports advertising, one expense at risk was the National Guard’s $26.5 million annual sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car, which is part of the Hendrick team. The amendment failed by a vote of 216-202. One representative who spoke against it was Sue Myrick, a North Carolina Republican. Myrick, FEC records show, has received at least $15,300 in campaign donations from Hendrick since 2002. (She also, it should be noted, represents a state with a major motorsports track, millions of racing fans and a significant military population.) Hendrick has also publically endorsed Myrick a number of times.

On the House floor, Myrick staunchly defended the funding of pro sports sponsorships. “Saying the Department of Defense has to limit what they do and decide how they recruit … it’s micromanaging. This approach won’t save a dime in the long term,” she said, arguing that the military will end up paying more in incentives like recruiting bonuses if its advertising is restricted.

Myrick, a nine-term congresswoman who’s the Republicans’ deputy House whip, was joined by ten other North Carolina representatives in defeating the amendment Wednesday night. Two North Carolina reps, David Price (D) and Walter Jones ®, voted in favor of ending the sponsorships.

Hendrick has also donated $1,000 to John Edward’s Senate campaign in 2002, $3,000 to the Democratic Party of South Carolina in 2003, $2,500 to Romney’s 2012 campaign, and $2,300 to Rudy Giulani’s 2008 campaign. Jim Pendergraph, a Republican who the retiring Myrick has endorsed to take over her seat in Congress, has received $5,000 in donations (and an endorsement) from Hendrick.

The Air Force sponsors a car driven by Aric Almirola out of Richard Petty’s garage. Petty, according to FEC records, has donated $4,000 since 2001 to Elizabeth Dole, $1,000 to The American Spirit PAC, $2,000 to Republican North Carolina rep John Howard Coble, and $2,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The Army announced before the vote that it is ending its sponsorship of Ryan Newman, who drives for the Stewart-Haas team. Co-owner Gene Haas has given money twice to Republican congressional candidates in California, including current representative Elton Gallegly.

Hendrick Motorsports did not return a request for comment. Rep. Myrick’s office referred BuzzFeed to her testimony on the House floor.

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