Role reversal: Ford gives $$$ to Feds

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

They never took a dime of President Obama's costly and massive auto bailout, but Uncle Sam can't say the same about tapping the generosity of Ford Motor Company.

In a reversal rich with recession irony, Ford on Thursday provided $500,000 to the Smithsonian Institution to expand the kid-friendly Spark!Lab at the National Museum of American History and its Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

Ford's donation announced at the Washington Auto Show is the latest in a 40-year relationship with the museum that includes funding the National Zoo's "Panda Cam."

"My great-grandfather Henry Ford knew as well as anyone how truly rewarding the invention process can be," said Edsel B. Ford II, who is a board member of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. "Ford's commitment to innovation is part of our DNA," added Ziad Ojakli, Ford's Washington vice president.

GM, meanwhile, also opened its checkbook at the Washington Auto Show, writing $1 million to Habitat for Humanity. A government watchdog this week said GM owes $21.6 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout it received. The report said that Treasury has stock in the company which it would need to sell for $71.86 each to break even.