98 House Members — Mostly Dems — Cruising in Taxpayer-Funded Cars

Long before the Obama administration began, congressional Democrats have made limiting U.S. oil dependence a centerpiece of their agenda. But being a lawmaker also comes with perks that can compromise one's political priorities -- and some party leaders have made unflattering headlines with their willingness to spend taxpayer funds on leasing lavish, fuel-chugging cars.

amd_rangel_car.jpgRep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee (Photo: NYDN)
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D) recently got rid of his publicly financed Cadillac DeVille, which he likened to "an airplane" and was big enough to fit an entire desk inside. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) got some tough questions back home after his hybrid Lexus (with an annual lease cost of $24,730) made the Wall Street Journal.

So when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today made good on her promise to let voters look at how House members spend their quarterly office allowances, Streetsblog Capitol Hill checked to see which lawmakers are spending taxpayer funds to lease cars ... occasionally to travel very walkable distances.

In the third quarter of 2009, the time period covered by today's records release, 99 House members spent office allowances on autos. The majority of the group (63 lawmakers) were Democrats, and all congressional cars were subject to fuel-efficiency limits shepherded into law by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).

The list of leasers runs the gamut from progressive transportation policymakers -- Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) paid $765.57 per month for a Toyota -- to stalwart auto industry backers such as Michigan Reps. Candice Miller (R) and Dave Camp (R).

Several New York City area lawmakers maintain auto leases, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D), who appears to have held onto the $998 monthly Lexus that the Daily News found him sporting in March, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D), whose $219 monthly lease fell on the lower end of the spectrum.

(ed. note. This post was corrected to report an erroneous attribution of DeGette's office auto lease to DeFazio, who does not lease a car. An earlier version of this post also erroneously reported that Representative John Olver leases a car with taxpayer funds. Olver does not lease a car with taxpayer funds. Streetsblog Capitol Hill regrets the errors.)