House reps blow taxpayer dough on pricey gas-guzzlers

It’s almost April; do you know where your taxes are? Last year, at least $1.05 million in public money went to leasing SUVs, luxury cars, and other vehicles for members of Congress — just as the Founding Fathers intended. Members of the House are legally allowed to lease cars out of their office budgets to travel in their own districts, a perk that about one-third of reps took advantage of in 2005. Leasing fuel-efficient, inexpensive vehicles could cost taxpayers less than reimbursing representatives for driving their own cars, yet dozens of the vehicles leased in 2005 were gas-guzzlers. The biggest spender in 2005, Rep. Michael Ross (D-Ark.), spent more than $36,000 to lease three vehicles, including a Ford Expedition SUV; the median annual income of his constituents is about $30,000. “Leadership by example,” says Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project, “has never been a forte of the United States Congress.”