10.01.2008 0

Car-Kiting Scandal Envelops Quarter of House

  • On: 10/07/2008 09:57:19
  • In: Government Transparency

  • Charles Rangel (D-NY) believes that the best way to represent his constituents is to cruise around in expensive cars while visiting them. Unfortunately for his constituents, the only way Rep. Rangel is able to do this is because of a loophole which allows members of congress to lease cars – paid for by the taxpayers themselves. For a congressional district that is tied at #3 for its poverty level (30.48%) and #424 for median Household income ($27,934) – Congressman Rangel’s $9288/year Cadillac DeVille isn’t very “representative.”

    Fortunately for the congressman though, he is not alone. About a quarter of his fellow House members do the same thing; some choosing modestly-priced rentals ($200-300 per month range), while others going as high as the $998/month that Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is paying – or rather not paying.

    This is nothing more than a repeat of the “Check-Kiting scandal” of the early 90s, in which a group of (mostly Democratic) congressmen were forced out of office following reports that many of them were intentionally overdrawing their checking accounts, without any penalty – essentially taking out interest-free loans.

    The car leasing issue is not a new revelation, either. As early as 1991, a Chicago Tribune article concluding that the House of Representatives could have halved its transportation bill by simply requiring members to lease out of the GSA vehicle pool. But the report apparently went unheeded, as the number of leasing representatives is down by only about a dozen.

    Aside from the actual vehicle itself, “general maintenance, insurance, registration fees, and excess mileage charges” are also picked up by the taxpayers. And yes, taxpayers also foot the ever-increasing gas bill.

    ALG Perspective: This “Car-Kiting” scandal is just more proof that Congress is more than willing to spend money – when it does not hurt their pockets.

    There is a story told of frontiersman Davy Crockett who, during his tenure in the House of Representatives, gave a powerful speech against giving public money to a war hero’s widow. While he acknowledged her husband’s service, he stated that it was not the purview of the government to provide her with a pension – indeed, the government would go in debt were it to provide pensions to all the worthy widows!

    Crockett suggested instead that each representative give a week’s pay to this widow, which would amount to more than they had proposed. But instead, some of the wealthier congressmen, who had given speeches stating that such a sum as was proposed was insignificant – not one was willing to draw from his own pocket. The following statement which Crockett made to one of his fellow representatives could easily describe the Car-Kiters of today:

    “Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people.”

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