U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, is among 82 members in the U.S. House of Representatives charging taxpayers to lease vehicles to travel within their respective congressional districts.

House disclosure records for 2011 show that Michaud paid $795 per month to lease an in-district  vehicle. The cost is mid-level for the other House members, some of whom lease two vehicles.

The list was originally published by the tabloid Inside Edition, which questioned the high costs associated with the leases. For example Missouri Democrat Emanuel Cleaver has $1,900/month lease.

Peter Chandler, Michaud’s chief of staff, said his office opted to lease a vehicle rather than remimburse for mileage. Chandler said that Michaud has the second largest congressional district east of the Mississippi and that the congressman comes home often enough that it was cheaper than paying him and a staff member at the federal reimbursement rate. 

Chandler said the lease arrangement began after Michaud’s second term. The congressman used a different vehicle then. Chandler said the lease saved the staff budget about $7,000 per year.

Chandler said Michaud’s vehicle, a 2011 Ford hybrid SUV, was choosen because it was a four-wheel drive. Rules set by the Committee on House Administration require leased vehicles meet a certain fuel efficiency standard, which is why Michaud’s vehicle is a hybrid. 

Chandler said the efficiency requirement left only five four-wheel drives to chose from. He added that Michaud wanted an American-made car.    

The lease is from Lee Leasing in Auburn. The company is owned by Adam Lee, who has donated to Michaud and other Democratic candidates over the years.

Chandler said that Michaud does not lease a vehicle in Washington D.C.  050712 Congress List UPDATE