Rep. Bennie Thompson and his chief of staff paid off $860 worth of parking tickets last week after Roll Call brought the outstanding fines to their attention.
Members of Congress have immunity from many routine parking tickets in the District of Columbia, but that doesn’t mean they can’t try to rack up fines.
According to a Roll Call survey of vehicles parked on Capitol Hill and at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, as of mid-March, lawmakers were carrying at least $15,000 in outstanding tickets — ranging from expired meters to speeding camera violations — and potentially thousands of dollars more.
Three-quarters of those tickets, worth about $11,500, were in default at the time of the survey, having gone more than 60 days, and in some cases years, without payment.
Roll Call canvassed Congressional parking facilities, as well as a special Members-only parking lot at the airport, and reviewed about 300 vehicles displaying a House- or Senate-issued Member parking tag.
Information on parking violations was obtained from the District of Columbia’s public ticket database, which is searchable by license plate and includes information on minor violations.
While many vehicles registered a single ticket, valued at as little as $20, a handful of automobiles reported several hundred to thousands of dollars in unpaid tickets.
Roll Call’s inquiry appears to have led some offenders to pay up.
Aides to Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the lawmakers repaid their respective tickets after being contacted by Roll Call.
The District’s database showed Weiner received nearly $2,180 in tickets from 2007 to early March, including some instances in which he appears to have incurred multiple violations at the same time, such as failing to display current tags while parked in a taxi stand zone.
“All of the Congressman’s parking tickets have been paid. He is pleased to have helped decrease the D.C. budget deficit,” Weiner spokesman Dave Arnold said.
Thompson spokesman Lanier Avant likewise said the Mississippi lawmaker repaid $610 in outstanding tickets that his vehicle received from 2004 to 2010. During Roll Call’s survey, a second vehicle displaying Thompson’s Member parking permit also returned $250 in parking tickets, which Avant said were his own and were also repaid.
According to the House Administration Committee, Members must pay their own parking tickets and are not permitted to use official funds.
The D.C. registry showed California license plates used by Rep. Mike Honda (D) received $640 in tickets from 2007 to 2010.
“Thanks for bringing this to the Congressman’s attention. It’s being sorted out now (there appears to be some errors in past processing). Either way, it will be taken care of immediately,” Honda spokesman Michael Shank said Monday.
Shank said Honda thought he had previously paid some of the tickets.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.