Cleaver's response on 'costly vehicle lease'
The Kansas City Star
I would like to respond to a recent media story entitled “Cleaver’s costly vehicle lease” from Sunday, May 6.
I was shocked and disappointed to see the piece, which, I am told was written based on a report from the nationally syndicated newsmagazine program, ‘Inside Edition’. The article mentioned my Mobile Office. I was not contacted for comment, clarification or explanation regarding the issue of ‘leased automobiles’.
While some Members of Congress utilize taxpayer dollars to drive expensive cars in their districts, this is not the case with me. I drive a ten year old Chrysler that my wife and I own.
The vehicle my office leases has never been used for my personal transportation. It is a handicapped accessible Mobile Office that brings government services to constituents who may not otherwise be able to get to an office building.
Constituents like the elderly woman who no longer drives, but wasn’t receiving her social security check. When the Mobile Office made a stop in her neighborhood, she was able to sit down with a caseworker, who began a Congressional inquiry on the spot.
Constituents like the gentleman, who was able to walk right down the street to a local library, where the Mobile Office was stationed. He wasn’t getting his IRS refund check. Again, within a matter of minutes, a caseworker cut through months of red tape and bureaucracy.
Despite past positive stories on the Mobile Office, some by the Kansas City Star itself, for reasons unknown, this story left out relevant and important facts. The article read, “Two years ago he (meaning me) defended making taxpayers shell out big dollars for a van that reportedly served as his mobile office.”
To be clear, I do not feel the need to ‘defend’ my efforts to serve my constituents. I do that unapologetically. But I do believe Star readers deserve to get an accurate explanation of where those taxpayer dollars are going, why, and to what end. Sensational, inaccurate and fact-free writing has no place in a respected paper like the Kansas City Star.
In fact, the Kansas City Star itself has called me a Jolly Green Giant for my national leadership role in environmentalism, singling out the energy efficiency of my Mobile Office and the fact that it runs on cooking grease. Because of that, it emits no sulfur dioxide, reduced amounts of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
But the Mobile Office is not just an energy efficient vehicle that brings the services of a Congressional office to the people it serves – it also saves those same people taxpayer dollars. It would be much more expensive to open an additional, stationary office in the large Fifth District, staff it and maintain upkeep.
The Mobile Office is an idea that another member of Congress seems to have found useful to serve constituents, too. Republican Rep. Sean Duffy from Wisconsin, who ran as a fiscal conservative, also now has one. The original idea came from the iconic Fifth District Congressman, the late Dick Bolling, who converted an old RV into a much-celebrated Mobile Office.
Yes, the expenditure is listed as an automobile lease cost on the quarterly disbursement forms. That is the general, government classification that exists, and to continue to abide by all of the rules and regulations properly, that is where my Mobile Office must be listed.
But for a local news organization to omit important facts that put the story into context is misleading, a mischaracterization and does not live up to the high standards of The Kansas City Star. Readers deserve better.
Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Belton, Raymore and Peculiar, Missouri. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee. Congressman Cleaver also serves as a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus and Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.