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On December 1st, Fox 2 News in Detroit reported on a vehicle break-in. While this was nothing significant in itself, said vehicle was a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and the items taken included two MacBook computers and some concert tickets.
But it gets more interesting. At the time, the Escalade was being driven by a 20 year-old, the son of Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan), plus it was a vehicle leased by Conyers under the Federal government’s congressional car program, under whose rules Conyers’ 20 year-old son is forbidden from driving.
This program, designed to provide members of the assembly with vehicles (similar to company car programs offered to sales reps at many private firms), requires the government to purchase a vehicle which is then leased to the member of congress up to a certain monthly amount or percentage of the vehicle’s price tag. In California, which has a taxpayer funded state vehicle program, this includes up to $500 or 90 percent of the vehicle, which the lessee (the member of the assembly) then pays on a monthly basis. However, there are stipulations; the vehicle must be American made and/or a hybrid. Texas is another state that has a similar program.
Besides the vehicle, with these programs, the state or government also pays for mileage and maintenance (again, funded by taxpayer dollars), though according to a report by the Sacramento News & Review these programs are widely open to abuse. One case documented an assemblyman’s Mustang receiving a $25,000 repair bill, while another showed that one assembly member burned through 5,500 gallons of fuel in a year, with the bill again picked up by the taxpayers.
And in a time when California is broke, such oversights are making voters turn red in the face – and for good reason. With all the cuts in emergency services and education in the Golden State, the fact that such antics have been allowed to persist is clear indication of a State Government with skewered priorities.
In Federal circles, it’s argued things are even worse. Conyers’ Escalade retails for around $76,000 (the monthly lease payment on his Caddy is a staggering $1,256.66), while according to the NY Times, New York Congressman Gregory Meeks spent $998 a month leasing a Lexus LS460 at the expense of taxpayers.
Yes, there are some members of Congress who use the program wisely, purchasing affordable transportation for official duties, but it’s clear that others use it as a gravy boat to further their own lifestyles (there’s hardly a need for tax payers to foot the bill for a $70,000 luxury cars so elected officials can ride around in pimping style). But despite the Fox probe and another from the LA Times, there hasn’t been much follow up – for example, Fox 2 didn’t question why Conyers’ 20 year-old son was driving the Escalade in the first place.
However there is a one man army dedicated to waging a war against this kind of corruption. David Palmer, a self-proclaimed ‘Watchdawg’ has been having increasing success at exposing government corruption with a reputation of being a Pit Bull in the courtroom. Those public officials that have dismissed him as just another angry taxpayer do so at their own peril. However, judging by the state of things right now, we could probably use a few more people like him.
[Source: Sacramento News & Review]