“SUVgate” Latest Of Many D.C. Scandals
With a budget shortfall of $400 million, the city once led by a crack head mayor (who still sits on the council) is being run by unscrupulous officials that go on reckless spending sprees with taxpayer money.As local governments go, the District of Columbia has mastered the art of making national headlines for the many transgressions of its elected leaders. In 1990 it was Mayor Marion Barry—elected to the D.C. Council four times since his drug conviction—starring in an FBI surveillance video smoking crack. Barry has since been in trouble for illegally giving his girlfriend a bogus city contract, steering millions of public dollars to groups he controls, failing to pay taxes and stalking an estranged lady friend.This week the D.C. Council made headlines because Chairman Kwame Brown got busted for getting two luxury sports utility vehicles and sticking taxpayers with the $1,900 monthly lease for each. An alternative weekly paper in Washington D.C. actually broke the story last month, but it didn’t receive much outside coverage until the area’s mainstream newspaper published a piece over the weekend.Brown, whose annual salary is $190,000, demanded a “fully loaded” luxury vehicle with a state-of-the-art video entertainment system, power moon roof, polished aluminum wheels and leather seats. When the first deluxe SUV arrived with the wrong color interior, Brown had a fit and demanded another one with the correct color. That means the city got stuck with leases for two overpriced gas-guzzlers.Like a good politician Brown, a veteran councilman, promised to practice fiscal restraint when he took over as chairman. If not for the media, he’d be cruising worry-free in a flashy taxpayer-financed SUV that most of his constituents could probably never afford. After getting caught he apologized for the “disruption” and claimed to regret appearing “insensitive to the financial challenges our city and residents face.”D.C.’s mayor, Vincent Gray, has also come under fire for hiring an army of senior staffers with lucrative salaries, including the son of his chief of staff and the daughter of a close adviser. As council chair a few years ago, Gray was embroiled in his own corruption scheme for illegally using official stationary to solicit donations for the Democratic Party and for having a politically-connected city contractor renovate his house.Several other scandals have rocked D.C.’s perpetually crooked government over the years. Former Mayor Adrian Fenty got in trouble for taking controversial overseas trips—on taxpayer time—financed by Arab and Communist governments, promoting a campaign donor’s business with public funds and giving his fraternity brother a lucrative city contract. Judicial Watch obtained documents related to the Dubai andChina trips Fenty took while he was supposed to be working for the city.