"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Congress Has Gas; No Surprise…they’re so full of it anyhow: Or The Congressional Gas Con ; that’s right C.O.N. not Gas Can!

By Sean Mussenden ... commentary by (Ed.)


WASHINGTON -- Congress spent much of the last month debating ways to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

Perhaps it should take a closer look in its garage.

Half of all vehicles leased by members of Congress with taxpayer funds are gas-guzzling SUVs, a review of congressional financial records show.

Twice as many lawmakers drive luxurious Lincoln Town Cars - four, at a sluggish 15 miles per gallon in the city - than hybrid Toyota Priuses - two, at 48 miles per gallon in the city.

(You Will Just Love This…I Promise.)

SEARCHABLE DATABASE: Search for congressional car leases.

This database shows taxpayer-funded cars leased by members of the House of Representatives. About a quarter of all representatives lease cars for use on official business. The rest are reimbursed for use of a personal vehicle.

If a search on an individual state returns no records, it means no member of Congress from that state leased a vehicle.

Source: House financial records, congressional offices

The less-efficient vehicles attracted little notice with gas under $2 a gallon. With pump prices now above $4, some lawmakers are moving from larger vehicles to smaller, more efficient hybrids.

Taxpayers spend about $1 million per year to lease vehicles for 127 members of the House of Representatives, more than a quarter of the 435-member body.

The government also pays for fuel for the leased vehicles. Senators are prohibited from leasing vehicles.

Most members of the House do not lease a vehicle and are reimbursed 50.5 cents per mile for use of personal vehicles in their districts.

The rate, which covers fuel and wear and tear on the car, stays the same if lawmaker or a staffer owns a large SUV or a tiny hybrid.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., is one of 62 lawmakers who leased a taxpayer-financed SUV this year. Check him out! I can’t find a single reason NOT to end his free ride!

Wilson is considering (good Congressional word for Bullshit) replacing his 2007 Ford Explorer with a hybrid when the lease expires because of high gas prices.

"Rising gas prices are having a rough impact on the American family's budget and, consequently, our driving habits. More fuel efficient cars will have to be part of our future energy policy," he said. (What a f’n genius!)

More fuel-efficient vehicles were part of Wilson's past energy policy, too. Before obtaining the 2007 Explorer, which costs $570 a month and gets 20 miles per gallon on the highway, Wilson leased a Ford Escape hybrid SUV.

It got 28 miles per gallon on the highway, but the monthly payment, $923, was too steep to offset the reduced fuel usage. So the congressman traded it for an Explorer.

Even if Wilson does not trade in his Explorer for a hybrid when his lease expires this time, he and other SUV drivers will have to swap their rides for a far more fuel-efficient vehicle.

A new law, slipped into an energy bill that passed Congress in 2005 and now taking effect, mandates that members of Congress can only lease fuel-efficient, low emission vehicles.

(Check with Denny Kucinich; that’s what happens when you don’t read the stuff!)

Out: many mid-size and most large SUVs, like the Lincoln Navigator or Ford Expedition. In: hybrid SUVs and sedans, small cars, and flex fuel vehicles.

(How about bicycles and motor cycles without head gear..they can take a hit or two.)

Lawmakers can keep their old vehicles until the lease expires.

(Or until we kick their asses out of office, which every comes first, and I have a preference on that one.)

The change was sponsored by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., whose office leases a retrofitted Ford Econoline van that runs on used cooking oil.

The vehicle, which he leases for $2900 a month, serves as a mobile office, and is outfitted with a fax machine, copier and other equipment.

(It is a damn good thing that RVs aren’t on the approved list. Just think about it. Motoring Congressional Offices with TVs, Computers, built in bars, beds and no hotel bills of sign in registers. Holy S#2%t!)

Cleaver reasoned that since Congress recently forced auto companies to increase fuel economy, lawmakers should drive more efficient cars.

"As he often says, people would much rather see a sermon than hear one.

(Kinda Catchy huh?)

When we're telling everyone we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we should walk the walk instead of driving around in big SUVs," said Danny Rotert, a spokesman for Cleaver.

(Or just walk?)

Environmental groups praised the change, arguing that driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle gives lawmakers more moral authority to ask Americans to do the same.

(…gives lawmakers more moral authority! Excuse me while I go throw up)

"We'd prefer that members of Congress drive the most efficient car possible," said Josh Dorner, a spokesman for the Sierra Club.

(Hey Josh…they’re not listening.)

Cleaver also had a less symbolic motivation. As gas prices have risen, demand for fuel-efficient hybrid cars and SUVs has soared. But supplies of those vehicles remain extremely tight, and waiting lists are often long.

If more lawmakers are pushed to lease a hybrid, Congress will develop a better understanding of the problem and work more urgently to help bring more hybrids to market, Cleaver reasoned.

(Congress will develop a better understanding of the problem…now there is a novel concept if I ever heard one. They understand Bush is a criminal and we expect them to grasp this kind of problem. I think not.)

For leased vehicles, the cost of gas is also charged to taxpayers.

(This just gets better all the time. Hell it’s enough to make me want to run for Congress…such a deal.)

More fuel efficient hybrids generally require smaller gas bills, but monthly payments can run higher than standard models.

(They call that “Trade off” and whitewash.)

Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., first leased an SUV when he arrived in Congress, then swapped it for a van. Several years back, he switched to a Honda hybrid, and then to a Toyota Prius.

He is one of only two members of Congress to lease a Prius, financial records from the first quarter of this year show. At 48 miles per gallon in the city, the Prius is one of the most efficient cars on the road. Watt's office pays $743 a month for the car.

"I had a hybrid six years ago, long before driving one became a political badge of honor," he said.

In the last year, several lawmakers have traded in less efficient vehicles for hybrids, though most still drive standard SUVs.

In addition to the two Prisues, members lease a hybrid Toyota Camry (33 miles per gallon city) a hybrid Honda Civic (40 miles per gallon city) and 10 hybrid SUVs - a Mercury Mariner, a Toyota Highlander and eight Ford Escapes.

(I like that: The Congressional "Escape Vehicle"!)

The hybrid SUVs get between 28 and 34 miles per gallon in the city.

Government waste groups have complained about the lease program in past years, in part because some lawmakers use it to drive luxury cars.

The list of leased vehicles includes a BMW, a Lexus, an Infiniti, several Cadillacs and luxury SUVs.

(We sure keep them in style; don’t we?)

The size of the monthly payment for some vehicles has also attracted attention from government waste groups. For example, Luis Fortuno, the first Republican elected to Congress representing Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico's representative in the House, pays $1,179 a month for his 2006 Ford Expedition (12 miles per gallon city).

A spokeswoman for Fortuno, a Republican, said that she suspected the high cost of vehicles on the island partly explained the costly monthly payment.

(Face it; this one is a “pretty boy with lots of photos on his site and a legislative record that you could use for toilet paper…dump him.)

In interviews, several congressional staffers said that the short length of the lease - generally two years - and the lack of a down payment make the monthly payments steeper than normal.

(You’ve got to do better than load of garbage.)

Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., leases a Ford Freestyle, a cross between an SUV and a station wagon for $508 a month. It gets 22 miles per gallon on the highway.

Miller's district staff uses the car regularly to meet with constituents. The office did a cost-benefit analysis and determined that leasing a vehicle was actually cheaper than reimbursing staffers to use their own cars, said LuAnn Canipe, Miller's spokeswoman.

"This is not an Infiniti. It's not a Lincoln Navigator," Canipe said. "It's not an outrageous vehicle. It's a pretty practical little car."

( Did you know that if your Congressman goes out on the town at home, and say, gets totally wasted at Murphy’s Pub, you pay for his gas and his getting gassed? That’s right; he’ll just call it a constituent meeting when he sleeps it off.)

Some lawmakers have also moved to flex fuel cars and SUVs that run on both gas and E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

The alternative fuel is less efficient than standard gasoline. For example, a flex fuel Mercury Mountaineer, like the kind driven by Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Illinois, gets 19 miles per gallon when running on regular gas on the highway. On E85, it gets 14 miles per gallon on the highway.

Though E85 is a less efficient fuel, it produces less greenhouse gas than standard gasoline.

According to the EPA, a typical Mountaineer run on standard gasoline emits 12.2 tons of carbon dioxide per year, compared with 10.1 tons of C02 for a Mountaineer run on E85.

(Tons, Tons, Tons!) (Did I write about a real electric engine a few time here; why yes I did.)

Ethanol pumps are sporadic in some parts of the country, but not in Manzullo's district.

"We have two working ethanol plants in our congressional district, and a lot of pumps," said his spokesman, Rich Carter. "It burns cleaner, and reduces our need for foreign oil."

Most members of Congress have avoided the lease program altogether. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said her decision not to lease a vehicle was simple.

"It just didn't seem necessary. I already had my own car," said Foxx, who drives a 2005 Chevrolet minivan.

To send a news tip or submit a story idea, e-mail stories@nbc4i.com.
OH, and by the way; What the Hell happened to BUY AMERICAN? The Congress has Gas and were being Gassed…and we’re picking up the full tab for this sack of pasture patties.


Anonymous said...

How could V. Foxx possibly justify the use of a tax payer leased vehicle and her spending over $300,000 on Franklin privileges all at the same time? She can't lease a car paid for by tax dollars, that would be irresponsible, but I'll bet she uses her Chevron Card when she pays at the pump, after all being invested in Chevron why wouldn't she put money back in her own pocket, especially when her voting record ensures profit from big oil companies.
Hey Foxx! Do us all a favor, close the Enron Loophole and stop oil being traded as a future or step aside and allow Roy Carter to properly represent the needs of the people in your district.