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Cravaack's $1,000-a-month car among Congress' costliest

Rep. Chip Cravaack
Rep. Chip Cravaack

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack spends more taxpayer money per month on a vehicle lease than almost every other member of the U.S. House, according to a MinnPost review of reports detailing each House member’s spending. But his office said the special terms of the lease — driven by House regulations out of his control as well as the mileage needed to traverse the expansive 8th District — explain the high cost.

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Comments (34)

Let's cut the crap. An SUV is a status symbol, and that's the only reason Cravaak wants it. Longer distances and harsh winters my rosy red a$$. Peterson is dealing with the same issues with a smaller and cheaper car, Cravaak can do the same.

Any driving conditions that would actually require 4wd would result in a cancelled trip, because few drivers actually know how to drive safely in 4wd, which, rather than being safer, tends to encourage the morons among us to take chances they otherwise wouldn't and know they shouldn't.

He's doing it because he can. The rest is just tawdry window dressing.

So this is news? The lease cost is high but there is a reason for it being high. This story just gives haters more fuel to fire off more hate.

The conclusion is that Federal employee expense allowances need an overhaul. Let me do it!

Why would we expect anything different from Rep. Cravaack? The dysfonic "conservative" perspective has always been that the rich deserve to be rich because they ARE rich and that their most sycophantic supporters deserve to have the good life (by hook or by crook) as well.

As Leona Helmsley (the fabulously wealthy New York hotel owner) so famously quipped, "taxes [and presumably reasonably priced car leases at taxpayer expense] are for the little people."

Rep. Cravaack is just trying to prove that he's not one of "the little people," but is clearly a couple of cuts above most of the residents of his district.

Cravaak must be in that upper 2% that we need to protect from social responsibility.

I'd guess that Cravaak, being a former pilot, is used to some of the nicer things in life. Seems like an awfully high lease price, even on an SUV. Maybe he should've done the lease in MN and driven the car to DC... Might've been cheaper

Oh puhleeze. If the same financial arrangement that Rep. Cravaack made had been done by a Democrat, you would be all over it. IRS mileage rates are universally used by both the public and private sector for reimbursing mileage to an employee who uses his/her own personal vehicle.

And yes, it is news when the Congressman who got elected in large part on advocating fiscal austerity is near the top of the list for the U.S. House of Representatives freshman class for office expenses, including franking.

You don't get it both ways, folks.

So Rep Peterson has two cars with a total lease payments of $1,408 and Rep Cravaack has one CUV with a payment of $1,000. A better question would be why is Rep Peterson paying $408 a month more?

Next, MinnPost found comparable vehicles available under three-year lease terms, with mileage restrictions, for about $367 a month. This lax reporting begs the question what are the restrictions and how long is the lease?

Per Chevy, the low mileage lease at Minnpost found would likely be for 3 years at 13k miles per year ($0.18 per mile over) and approx $3,000 down plus TT&L. Assuming Rep Cravaack drives as much as Rep Peterson (33,333 miles per year) Minnpost would effectively add $305 in monthly mileage charges [(33,333-13,000)*$0.18/12)] Then need to add the difference of TT&L and down-payment for the life of the lease. So lets assume the CUV was 30k tax would 1,950($30,000*0.065) plus down payment of 3,000 or a total of $4,950 over 36 months or $137.50 a month.

Now add all the components of the Minnpost lease $365 monthly, $305 in mileage, and $ 137.50 in down-payment TT&L. We have a total monthly cost of $807.5 per month for the first 2 year then we get to pay $502.50 a month for the third year the car is out of service. Nice work Minnpost.

First, I voted for Oberstar, Cravaak's opponent. I disagree with Cravaak on many levels.

But in northern MN, a 4WD or AWD vehicle makes sense. Roads, especially rural roads, simply aren't plowed that quick. And the Equinox is a lot cheaper than the other Chevy alternatives (Tahoe, Suburban). If he can get by with one Equinox vs. Peterson's 2 Ford Focus', fine.

There are 3 "levels" of the AWD Equinox, varying in cost and "luxury". I'm curious as to which one he picked. I would have to assume, given his spending philosophy, it was the lowest. Don't know.

Where I really question this is what he's paying given what he's getting. Even with the restrictions, it seems very high. From what I can see, he's paying approximately $22,700 to use a $29,000 vehicle for 22 months and 54,000 miles. What competitive shopping did he do?

I have no doubt that if a "federal bureaucrat" had entered into this type of deal, it would be fodder for Rep. Cravaak's complaints of federal waste.

"Peterson said he wasn’t willing to pay the $800 or $900 his dealership was asking" So he purchased two leases for 1,408 good call!

Let's do the math--not talk about theories.

22 mo x $1000/mo = $22k cost and you have NOTHING at the end except a bunch of invoices and cancelled checks. Dealer makes out like a bandit. Why don't they just BUY the car and own it--I'd pay pay $6k-$8k for a decent 2-year-old car with 35k miles on it (wouldn't YOU?).

39 mo x $367 = $14,313(standard lease agreement) and the total cost is 1/3 LESS than a 2-year lease AND the allowable mileage is the same (~36k) for the three years. They can lease TWO cars for 39 months (each!!) for a TOTAL lease cost significantly less than one vehicle for 22 months.

So, this lease is pure GOPorkulus.

What a stretch.... to think this is actually a news story!

This is newsworthy, indeed.

It violates no House rules, so there is no cause for investigation. So instead, let's compare Rep. Cravaak's car to the Ford Focus of Rep. Peterson, that the author is using as the standard of comparison without doing any real comparison.

First of all, the Chevy Equinox is not an SUV; it is a Crossover. It competes with the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape.

MSRP: Equinox-$22,995; Focus $16,500
Highway MPG: Equinox-32; Focus-36

Scandalous indeed.

I can understand Cravaack's need for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. I live in the Congressman's district, and had an out of town visitor come after dark in late April. Our road had been in terrible condition. The guest was unable to see the roughness of the road and got stuck, in her lane, on the road. After trying to dig her out for an hour or so, we called a wrecker service from Forest Lake who made the trip to Shafer Township, Chisago County and was able to lift the car out of the ruts, where it had completely bottomed out. It was difficult explaining to the wrecker driver that the car was not off the road, but on the road, in the proper lane. He could not believe the condition of the road when he arrived. I, unfortunately, had become accustomed to it. Total cost to me, about $150. Absolutely true story, details available if you want. Lets continue to support an end to the big government practices like road maintenance and repair, and support those politicians in office by paying for their plush rides so that, while we may get stuck on the roads in front of our homes, they can tool around the district on our dime.

Addie: According to the story, Central Chevrolet Chrysler of North Branch, Minn., is the dealership from which Cravaack leased the vehicle.

Bad headline......but very good article. Clearly illustrated Cravaack's side of the arguement. Based on what I just read...nothing to see here folks....move along.

Just does not pass the smell test, sorry. Now he'll have to deal with a foolish distraction--a result of Cravaak's own crappy judgment.

#7 the article says Peterson's total monthly lease bill for both Ford Focuses (Foci?) is $652, not $1,408.

Whew...the public pays for Rep. Cravaack's big fuel guzzling car. We should all be sure glad he is a tight-fisted fiscal conservative. Heck, if he was a liberal spender, the next thing he would want is a free, public paid health care program.

But wait! He has free, public piad health care.

Oh,..never mind.

Mr Skar- where is this 1,408 for Peterson coming from? From what I read: "Collin Peterson, whose office leases two Ford Focuses (one for each its Willmar and Detroit Lakes offices) for a total of $652 a month"; Peterson is getting 2 cars for 2/3 the price. Is this new math?

As to why this is news- yes, nothing illegal. But when you make fiscal discipline your main argument, it makes you look hypocritical to pay a car fee that would pay many constituents mortgage.

This article is just another example of MinnPost "journalism."

According to the Duluth News Tribune…'The spending records show that through the first three months of 2011 no member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation has spent less on total expenses than Cravaack.'

However, I cannot wait for the next MinnPost "gushing, drooling, worshiping headline for Amy K.”

Cravaack needs to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

He has based his entire political persona around cutting government spending. What he is now finding out is that it is not as simple as he would like to be. I understand he has a large district, but so do other reps (see our neighbors to the west); if he wants to wave the tea party flag, he is obligated to live by its rules, and his vehicle expenditures, whatever the reason, do not do so.

Actually a very good headline, if true, and I gather that it is. The story does indeed spell out Cravaak's rationale. The rationale is hogwash, that's all.

I'm always intrigued with people, mostly Republicans, who are downright righteous about their vision for how the rest of us should live but see no reason why they themselves should have to live by the rules they champion for the rest of us. Cravaak isn't the only one, he's just the latest to come to prominence as a member of that elite group.

Hypocrite republican. Sorry, redundant phrase.

The big advantage to leasing over reimbursement? You can use the lease car to pick up your kids from school or go get some groceries or beer, whereas you couldn't apply for reimbursement for those jaunts.

Walk the walk?

As reported by the Duluth paper, and pointed out by Ron (#19), all other U.S. Representatives from MN had greater expenses than Rep. Cravaak in the first quarter of 2011.

Let's go cherry picking, and report who spent the most on office supplies. That's news too.

The alleged gas guzzling SUV is a crossover that gets 32 MPG. Gen-up the outrage!

I would like to think we elect people who have AT LEAST as good of judgment as the average person. Instead, we found someone who can't even buy a car right. Why would anybody expect him to be able to make a wise decision about anything.

"As reported by the Duluth paper, and pointed out by Ron (#19), all other U.S. Representatives from MN had greater expenses than Rep. Cravaak in the first quarter of 2011.

Let's go cherry picking, and report who spent the most on office supplies. That's news too."

Keep in mind that Rep Cravaak started his service in Jan 2011, while the other Reps were all incumbents. I imagine Rep Cravaak was still hiring staff & opening offices in Q1 2011, while other Reps had already hired their staffs & opened field offices (note, in the story above Peterson has multiple offices; presumably Cravaak will do the same in pursuit of his goal to perform top-notch constituent service). I'd expect that a freshman's expenses are typically lower than his peers' in their first months and grow towards the mean over time.

I couldn't find the Tribune's study of expenditures, but did find this article from today, in which they reference their study:

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/201250/

"The spending records show that through the first three months of 2011 no member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation has spent less on total expenses than Cravaack. His office spent nearly $80,000 less than the top spender in the state, Republican Rep. John Kline, who represents the southern part of the state and whose office spent $310,981 on staff, travel and mailings.
...
Cravaack sent out 80,000 pieces of mail and spent $3,600 on franking through the end of March, an amount dwarfed by fellow Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen, who spent $43,527, the most of any Minnesota member of congress."

Notable: budget hawk Kline is the biggest spender, while Paulsen likes sending mail. Apparently no DFLers merited mention by name.

"So Rep Peterson has two cars with a total lease payments of $1,408 and Rep Cravaack has one CUV with a payment of $1,000. A better question would be why is Rep Peterson paying $408 a month more?"

Actually Joseph Sklar (#7 and #9) the even better question would be why are you using the $1,408 number for Peterson. The two numbers you apparently added together - $652 and $756 - aren't the individual leases on each car. $652 is what he is paying on BOTH cars this year, and $756 is what he was paying on BOTH cars last year. That is, Peterson is leasing two cars for less than Peterson is spending on one car. Contrary to what your comments say, Peterson is not paying $408 more than Cravaack, and did not lease two cars for $1,408. Its not a "good call" by Peterson, but rather an "epic fail" by Joseph Sklar.

And this guy replaced a good congressman who rode a bicycle!

The Cravaack haters are out in force. The explanation is more than reasonable. A short lease on a vehicle is costly. He can't expend money past his term ending. That is the law. He needs a reliable vehicle to get around the district. Why do I know that the same haters don't begrudge Mr. Obama or Rep. Pelosi their jets and limos? There is no discussion with those that are hate filled.

@#7/9: to quote Paul Simon, "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

This is not news. Cravaak is a Republican so him being a hypocrite should be news to no one. Besides being hypocrites Republicans are also well known for misinterpreting or misunderstanding things that a normal human being sees as obvious. For example those here using the $1408 figure for Blue Dog Dem Collin Peterson when the article clearly state that he pays a "total of $652 a month." Maybe the two things are connected?

Great point Wheelock.

Brian (#25/#26):

This article states "That $1,700 figure included a series of lease start-up fees". That was in March, which is a first quarter month. You see, it is less expensive to continue operations, than it is to start operations. Cravaak started operations, and still had the lowest expenses among U.S. Reps from MN in Q1 of 2011.

This truly is a story about nothing. Unless you consider artificial outrage, demagoguery, and expense report cherry picking to be something.

If we really wanted our representatives to control expenses, we would ask them to do nothing. Communicating with constituents and traveling to meet constituents costs money. The House has rules; the rules must be followed.

I know Rep Oberstar did a fantastic job covering his district on his bicycle, but he is not in office any longer.

Steve Rose writes
"This article states "That $1,700 figure included a series of lease start-up fees". That was in March, which is a first quarter month. You see, it is less expensive to continue operations, than it is to start operations. Cravaak started operations, and still had the lowest expenses among U.S. Reps from MN in Q1 of 2011."

I suggest we might revisit this topic when future quarters' numbers are released. Those will allow apples-to-apples comparisons, when all the congresscritters are fully staffed & presumably in a stable spending pattern. I will say, it's amusing that you note March is a Q1 month without irony - given that Rep Cravaak thus had only 1 month of lease expenditures compared to 3 months for incumbents.

Brian (#33):

"I suggest we might revisit this topic when future quarters' numbers are released."

You might find that interesting, but I find it a meaningless metric.

If a representative hires no staff, rents a 144 square foot office, visits constituents on a bicycle, and has the lowest franking bill, he/she will win your admiration, while doing a poor job of visiting, communicating with, and serving constituents.