On YOUR Dime: Congressmen Lease Luxury Cars
Little-Known But Exploited Loophole Allows Politicians To Drive, Maintain Expensive Cars, SUVs On Taxpayer Money
Rep. Charles Rangel: 'My Constituents Appreciate It'
ReportingNEW YORK (CBS) ― You may not realize it, but members of the House of Representatives can lease a car and have it paid for by you -- the taxpayer. And it's not just the car, but gas, registration, insurance … the works.
And as CBS 2 HD found out, there's no limit on how much they can spend.
Congressman Charles Rangel was recently seen getting out of his Cadillac DeVille, which he leases for $774 per month. Then there was Congressman Jose Serrano, getting out of his Buick LaCrosse, which he leases for $317 per month. And how about this one: Congressman Gregory Meeks was recently seen waiting for Congressman John Conyers to step out of Meeks' Lexus LS460, which Meeks leases for $998 per month.
All those leases are picked up by taxpayers through a little-known program available only to members of the House of Representatives.
You can probably just imagine the kind of reaction CBS 2 HD got from everyday citizens outside Meeks' Jamaica, Queens office.
"They should all drive cheaper cars, why not?" Richard Candelario said. "I mean, you know, they're making the money. I mean, we shouldn't pay for their cars."
Members of the House who choose to lease through the program have had a great deal of leeway. Congressman Anthony Weiner of Brooklyn, for example, leases a 2008 Chevy impala for $219/month. Congressman Ed Towns of Brooklyn used to lease a Lincoln for $845 per month, but switched to a 2008 mini-SUV made by Lincoln, the MKX, which costs $715 per month.
Rangel spoke to CBS 2 HD by phone about the seemingly extravagant expenses being racked up on the taxpayers' dime:
CBS 2 HD: "How would you answer those people who say, 'Well, but it's taxpayer money. Instead of $700 a month, could you find something for, say, $300 a month?'"
Rangel: "I could probably find something for ... one of those red cars and then I think my constituents would say, 'With all the money that he gets, this is the respect he shows us?'"
Earlier, Rangel released a statement, further addressing the issue.
"When I'm in New York, my car is my office. I use it to conduct Congressional business. It really pleases me that (my constituents) appreciate driving in a comfortable car, especially the senior citizens," Rangel said.
"The car isn't just a vehicle for getting around; it's an important part of doing my job and my constituents appreciate it."
Taxpayers CBS 2 HD spoke with were not buying that rationale.
"I drive a Toyota RAV and I feel that he could drive a Toyota RAV and probably lease it for $200," taxpayer Cathy Kraut said.
Of the 42 Congressmen in New Jersey and New York about a dozen participate in the leasing program.
The U.S. Senate does not permit its members to lease cars with public money.
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