INSIDE EDITION Investigates Congressional Cars
In these tough times Americans are looking for ways to save. So it may surprise you that many members of congress are driving around in luxury cars that are paid for with your tax dollars and its perfectly legal. Inside Edition's Lisa Guerrero and the I-squad spent two months investigating congressional car leases.
When Congressman Gregory Meeks of Queens, New York makes the rounds in his home district, he does it in style - in a Lexus 450 hybrid. This kind of luxury doesn't come cheap. His Lexus costs a whopping $1,289 a month to lease. But that's no problem for Congressman Meeks because he's not paying for it. You are.
And his colleague, Congressman Edolphus Towns of Brooklyn, NY also has a taste for an expensive set of wheels. We found him zipping around town in a luxurious Lincoln MKZ hybrid, costing $957/month - and you paid for that too.
Taxpayers we spoke with were outraged. "I can't afford a luxury vehicle, I don't know why they should have one.," said a New York City woman.
"It just doesn't make sense that taxpayers would be paying for that.," said another.
"I find it outrageous and a misuse of funds," a young woman fumed.
Joe Barton, the fiscally conservative congressman from Texas cruises around in an impressive Chevy Tahoe that costs you $999 a month. "It drives real well," Barton told Inside Edition.
Barton says he sees nothing wrong with the hefty price tag and even offered to take an Inside Edition reporter for a ride. He says he leased the car because it's manufactured in his district, at the GM assembly plant in Arlington, Texas. "It's an official vehicle paid for by the taxpayers and it's used in my official duties," said Barton.
INSIDE EDITION found at least 82 out of 435 U.S. representatives lease cars for use in their home District.
Some have taste for luxury, like Congressman Bobby Rush, of Illinois, who represents President Obama's home district in Chicago. Rush rides around in a $1,027/month Lexus hybrid.
Inside Edition's findings are getting a lot of attention, including the O'Reilly Factor.
"C'mon congressmen. I lease a car and pay about $600 a month and it's a nice car," said O'Reilly on his popular cable news program.
Most of the congressmen we observed riding around in those expensive leases were not eager to talk about their leases, so Inside Edition Chief Investigative Correspondent, Lisa Guerrero went to Washington to get some answers.
Lisa Guerrero asked Rep. Meeks, "Do you realize you lease one of the most expensive cars in congress?"
Meeks responded, "All I know is that I go by the rules, look at the list, it has to be approved, I go by the rules to serve the people of my district."
Congressman Towns of New York didn't want to talk about his $957 Lincoln hybrid lease. Maybe that's because he's on a committee that's investigating the notorious GSA scandal involving that notorious $800,000 convention in Las Vegas.
"You are spending almost $1000 dollars a month on the taxpayer dime, do you think that's appropriate?" asked Guerrero.
"Which car are you talking about?" replied Towns.
"Your most recent car. I know before you were leasing something for more than 1200 a month, right now it's a Lincoln."
"You tell me what car you're talking about," Towns asked
"It's a Lincoln hybrid."
"I have to talk to my staff; they handle all that kind of stuff, that's not something I'm involved in," Towns replied.
While we were looking for Congressman Towns' car, we also noticed his wife driving another luxury vehicle, an Infiniti, with congressional tags. She was observed day after day - driving to the carwash, the dry cleaners and back and forth to work at a local hospital. But Towns doesn't pay for that car either. We found records showing the $602 lease on the Infiniti is paid for with the congressman's campaign funds. Experts say that is an apparent violation of campaign finance rules.
Guerrero said, "Your wife has been driving a car that's paid for with campaign funds, is that appropriate?"
Towns said, "I have no idea what you are talking about"
All the Congressmen say they are just abiding by the rules and doing nothing wrong
To see a list of members of the House who lease tax payer-funded vehicles, click on the PDF document at the top of this story.
See an update on this story here.