The Washington connection between Congress and lobbying just got a little dirtier.
How dirty? ABC News spoke with former Congresswoman Melissa Hart, a Pennsylvania Republican, and confirmed that a Volkswagen Jetta with a George W. Bush bumper sticker, coverd in dirt and cobwebs and parked in the Congressional Longworth House Office building parking garage, does in fact belong to her. Hart was voted out in 2006, but her car remains parked in the choice spot more than four years later.
The issue is not the clunker's obvious need for a tune-up and a carwash but, rather, the owner's particular profession. According to the website of the Committee on House Administration, former members of Conress are allowed to park or store their cars in House parking garages free of charge indefinitely, as long as they are not registered lobbyists. Hart now chairs Pittsburgh-based law firm Keevican Weiss Bauerle & Hirsch's Government Relations practice, which is registered in the Senate lobbyist database.
ABC News asked Hart, who represented Pennsylvania's 4th district through 2006 but lost her reelection bid to Democrat Jason Altmire, if she was aware of the House rules concerning parking perks. She said she was not.
Hart admitted the car was a piece of junk that she used for short trips around Washington. When ABC News asked Hart if she felt any need to reimburse taxpayers for the spot, valued at around $200 a month, that has been illegally occupied by her Jetta since March of 2009 when she became a registered lobbyist, she said no. Hart protested she had planned to allow other people to use the car (and presumably the sweet parking place) but it never happened.
Hart says her new plan is to donate the car to charity. If she can get it started.