The Campaign Spot

Jeff Greene Hits Meek Below the Waterline: His Taxpayer-Funded Car

I get e-mails from the Senate campaign of Jeff Greene, Florida Democrat, several times a day, often reminding me how his primary rival, Kendrick Meek, is history’s greatest monster. After a while, these messages get easy to tune out, but I think he’s hit on something pretty eye-opening here:

MEEK’S $977 A MONTH LEASED CAR

Meek One of Only 100 Members to Lease Car. Out of 435 members, only about 100 members of the House lease a car at taxpayer expense. [Wall Street Journal, 5/30/09]

Meek Has Spent $78,897 of Taxpayer Money on His Car. Since he has been in office, Kenrick Meek has spent $78,897 on car leases. This does not include expenses. [Meek Congressional office disbursements, Jan. 2003 to present]

Meek’s Car Has Cost More Than Median Family Income in Florida. The 2008 median family income for Florida was $58,339. [www.census.gov]

Meek Has Taxpayer Lease His Car Because the Cars He Owns are in DC. “Rep. Kendrick Meek spent $977 a month to lease a ‘flexible-fuel’ GMC Yukon that runs on gas or a blend of gas and ethanol under a House rule requiring members to lease green vehicles. The monthly payment is high because representatives cannot use their allowances for down payments, and the lease is only for two years, coinciding with their term in office, said Meek’s spokesman, Adam Sharon. A Miami Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate, Meek took his own cars along with his family to Washington after being elected, and needs to rent a vehicle in his district, Sharon said.” [Sun-Sentinel, 3/7/10]

Nearly $12,000 per year to lease a car? In what many voters would describe as Year Three of a Recession? To heck with that.

A lot of analysts think Rubio’s best shot is with Meek as the Democratic nominee; the thinking is that African-Americans will stick with Meek, Crist has a slice of the Democrats underwhelmed with Meek and some center-left types, and Rubio gets the biggest share.

I’m not quite so sure. If Jeff Greene wins the primary, he’ll probably immediately go to work tearing down Crist in an expensive ad campaign. It’s his lone shot: drive down Crist’s numbers and try to win head-to-head against Rubio.

Also keep in mind that Marco Rubio’s campaign hasn’t run a television ad since spring.

UPDATE: I remembered something about a car in Time’s profile of Meek that seemed way too optimistic about his chances. Upon a second glance, this part deserves better scrutiny:

He’s got a larger base — Democrats have a 750,000-voter advantage — though unlike Rubio, he hasn’t proven that he can nail it down.

Meek acknowledged that while driving my car from the restaurant to another condo event. (Ever the trooper, the first thing he did after squeezing into my driver’s seat was remove the old parking stubs from my dashboard; he explained that their reflection in the windshield could impair visibility.)

Thankfully, Meek wasn’t using his taxpayer-funded car for campaign work. But there’s something a bit odd here: Do political correspondents for Time magazine traditionally loan their cars to Democratic Senate candidates?

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