Expense reports published by the Clerk of the House of Representatives revealed that, despite being in the minority, House Democrats are currently outspending their Republican counterparts by a two-to-one margin on taxpayer-funded car leases.
Members of the House are offered the optional benefit of leasing a car at taxpayers’ expense — a perk that is not offered to senators.
In the third quarter of 2017, House Democrats’ spending on leases totaled $65,669 compared to $29,994 for Republicans. During that time, 19 Republicans expensed their leases, compared to 34 Democrats.
An analysis of one year of car leases expensed by House members compiled by The Washington Free Beacon showed that Democrats outspent Republicans by more than 2 to 1 in the last two quarters, although the gap was smaller during the first two quarters. Even so, Democrats outspent Republicans in each quarter and overall. The analysis did not account for vehicles utilized by the Speaker of the House or the Minority Leader.
According to the House of Representatives Press Gallery website, Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 45 in the House, as of January 16, 2018.
Regarding the issue, Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said, “Members are permitted to use their member’s representational allowance for any purpose that’s allowed under the House rules, which include leasing cars. However, there are many members that don’t spend all of their [allowance] money and give some of it back to the treasury. That would be very difficult to do for House Democrats based on the amount of money they’re spending on car leases.”
“Certainly, there shouldn’t be twice as much spent by one party as opposed to the other, especially when there are 45 fewer members of that party,” said Schatz.
In a 2008 report by The New York Times, Rep. Peter King, R.-N.Y., said the political pitfalls outweighed the benefits of leasing a car with taxpayer money.
“There are so many ethical issues people can raise,” said King, who stopped expensing his vehicle through the House in 2004. “I felt it just wasn’t worth the trouble or the aggravation. With the issues that people can raise against you, I just figured it didn’t make sense.”
House rules dictate that leased vehicles are not to be used as the personal vehicle of the House member, although minor exceptions apply based on the circumstance of the use.