By on September 12, 2007

jfk.jpgIn an article this past June, I looked at the disconnect between what some politicians say about automobiles, fuel mileage and the environment, and what they drive.   Exhibit A: presidential hopeful Barak Obama. Mr. Obama famously berated the Detroit Economic Club about Motown’s opposition to tighter fuel economy standards– with a Chrysler 300C stashed in his garage. The instant the media exposed this hypocrisy, Obama traded his Hemi-powered luxobarge for the PC pol’s pal: a Ford Escape Hybrid. That got me wondering what our other national leaders might have parked in their garages…

As TTAC’s resident numbers wonk, I was looking forward to tabulating a list of cars that our members of Congress drive. I’d then cross-reference it by party affiliation and auto industry involvement. Just for fun, I’d track down their voting record on issues like fuel economy and emission standards and see how they match up. (Yeah, I know. I need to get a life.) So I wrote a letter to every U.S. Senator, thinking I’d write the members of the House of Representatives at a later date.

I respectfully introduced myself and this website, and explained my request. “I’m working on an article on the personal transportation choices of our national leaders [which] will reveal the automotive taste and style of our most important congressmen and women.” I asked for the make, model and year of the vehicle or vehicles they drive for work, and which cars they own personally (registered both in their own or their spouse’s name). I also asked for their approximate yearly mileage.

After printing 99 letters (this was right after Senator Thomas of Wyoming passed away), licking 99 envelopes and affixing 99 stamps, I dropped the missives in a mailbox and waited. And waited. And waited. A little over three weeks later, I received an email from the “Office of Senator Saxby Chambliss.”

Thank you for contacting me regarding your website. It is good to hear from you.

I am flattered that you have chosen to include me in your article on the personal transportation choices of national leaders. However, because of my public status, I am unable to answer personal questions such as these.

I wish you the best of luck with your article and your website, and if I can ever be of assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to let me know.

I suspect the fact that I’m a Georgia resident– eligible to vote for Senator Chambliss the next time he’s up for reelection– inspired the politician to become the sole exception to Senatorial automotive omerata.  I repeat: no other United States Senator deigned to respond to my simple request for information.

Could it be, as Sen. Chambliss’ email implies, that the Senators’ personal transportation is a matter of national security? I can understand a Senator not wanting to identify his/her specific family car because of security concerns, but I didn’t ask for anything that would uniquely identify their vehicle, such as a license plate number or color. Likewise, knowing what kind of car a U.S. Senator leases (or the GSA provides) for “official business” doesn’t exactly sound like NSA-quality information.

In fact, the U.S. Government Printing Office prepares reports on the subject: "Statement of Disbursements of the House" and "Report of the Secretary of the Senate.” They list expenditures– including transportation expenses such as automobile leases– for all members of Congress. However, these reports aren’t posted on line. And the most recent version of the Senate report in the GPO bookstore dates back to 2003. So even though it’s published twice a year, the information isn’t easily accessible to the public.

So what’s with the veil of secrecy over our political employees’ transportation choices?  My guess: they don’t want to be “Obama’d.” Given the recent media fascination with fuel conservation, carbon footprints, alternative fuels and the trade deficit, our elected representatives can’t risk the general public finding out that they or their families drive SUVs, gas-guzzling luxobarges or (gasp!) a car produced by a foreign-owned automaker.

It wouldn’t be the first time a member of Congress was caught with their pants down (so to speak) doing something contradictory to what they’ve said on the record. Fool them once? Anyway, it beggars belief that the men and women who are seeking to guide the automotive destiny for tens of millions of Americans, who will write the laws that will control the fate of one of our most important industries, would shrug off any idea of personal accountability. 

I’ve decided not to write the members of the House; I don’t want spend $170 on postage to be ignored again. If any of you know what your federal reps drive, please post it in a comment below. In the meantime I’ll keep digging. 

 

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48 Comments on “Frank Williams to the U.S. Senate: What’s in YOUR Garage?...”


  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Slightly off topic, I know someone who is a driver for the CIA, taking higher-ups around town. His current “Company” car is a dark grey Mercury Grand Marquis with behind-the-grille emergency lights – when I ask him about the engine/armor/runflats/machine gun upgrades (or the Men In Black-type afterburners), all he does is smile and chuckle.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Go to Dulles airport and stand at the reserved parking for congress for a while, you’ll see what they drive. Allegedly it’s mostly towncars and caddies. I saw Joe Biden at a Lowe’s near me get out of an escalade, no idea if it was personally his, the government’s, or a family member’s. You would have to dig into DMV records to know for sure and good luck getting that info.

  • avatar
    radimus

    Frank, all of your answers are just a few FOIA requests away. Or maybe do some net searches. I’m sure some enviro-group has already done a lot of the leg work on this one.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    It’s amazing this hasn’t already been explored. Personally, I would vote for any politician who owned a car that began with an “S”, “R”, “M”, “RS”, “SRT-8″…or whose name contained an “AMG”…

    If simply because at the end of the day, that person probably has good taste :)

    Of course I wouldn’t actually vote for that person, but I would be intrigued by them! :)

    I remember an article on Supreme Court Justice Scalia (I believe) and how, despite his fairly generous salary, he drove an old stodgy car (I think it was a Volvo 740) and lived in a modest, but nice, home. Apparently, a SCOTUS Judge can have his/her car described along with the exact neighborhood they live in.

    Joe

  • avatar
    brownie

    In fairness to the other 98 senators, I believe senators and representatives are generally prohibited from responding to communications from people outside of their actual constituency; you must enter your exact address to send emails through the US Congress website and a disclaimer to this effect appears on all of the individual representatives’ pages.

    I’m not sure how this affects communications from the media; perhaps there is another procedure you need to follow?

  • avatar

    radimus :
    Frank, all of your answers are just a few FOIA requests away. Or maybe do some net searches. I’m sure some enviro-group has already done a lot of the leg work on this one.

    I searched the web every way I could figure how. I found info on what a few presidential hopefuls drive (not surprisingly, a lot of Escape Hybrids) but nothing on the rest of them.

    Having handled a few FOIA requests in the military, I know how easy it is to hide information behind the veil of “homeland security” if it’s something they don’t want publicized, or they can claim it’s “privacy act” information, which is exempt from the FOIA.

  • avatar
    matt

    I bet if you wrote in to a big newspaper about this and cried foul about it, you’d get a few responses. If they won’t do it willingly, make them do it to try and keep a good public image.

    Either way, its probably a bunch of Caddys, Mercs, Bimmers, Jags, and Lexuses (Lexi?)

    Didn’t I read that Karl Rove has a Jag? There’s a name for your list. Not a senator, but its better than nothing.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Maybe you should have used fake MoveOn.org and FreeRepublic.com letterheads for the various senators, respectively ;)

    Sounds more like “We don’t have time to deal with piddly, non-legislative requests” to me. Plus, they probably envision some kind of smear tactic in the works. Then again, maybe you’ll hear back from all the Prius owners. Loudly.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I really hope you find this Frank I would really like to know what they actually drive. I love having more fuel to hate the politicians in this country espcially the Georgia hypocrites.

    I’m not going to hold my breath though, these crooks are great at hiding who they really are from the public.

  • avatar
    Queensmet

    I would hope our elected officials would buy a vehicle that would help stimulate the US economy, not an import. This would increase the income of their constituents, subsequently increase the amount of taxes paid to the Feds and thereby increasing teh amount of maney available to them to increase their own income, If they can go “green” at the same time good for them, but I doubt any of them smart enough to figure that out.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    This is a great idea for a column! I hope this pans out. I’m sure there will be plenty SUV’s on that list.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    In fairness to the other 98 senators, I believe senators and representatives are generally prohibited from responding to communications from people outside of their actual constituency; you must enter your exact address to send emails through the US Congress website and a disclaimer to this effect appears on all of the individual representatives’ pages.

    Prohibited? No. Uninterested? Generally. If you’re not in any position to vote for them, on most issues an elected rep is not terribly interested in your opinion.

    Considering the numbers of people senators represent (that’s 2 senators for all 34 million Californians), it’s an understandable attitude.

  • avatar
    Cowbell

    I think I would have been more likely to vote for Obama if he drove the 300C. Something about a president with a Hemi sounds pretty cool.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    John Kerry has a fleet of SUVs, of course the excuse is they are family vehicles, not his own.

  • avatar
    mlbrown

    The public status of congressmen doesn’t prohibit them from answering you question about their personal vehicle. They just don’t want to, and don’t have to.

    An FOI request would only apply to cars purchased by the government for their use.

    You could try DMV records, but I’m not sure there’d be very much to see, depending on the state.

    You’re probably just going to have to harass them. Call them…they don’t respond. Call again, two times in one day. They don’t respond. Call again, tell them if no one responds, you’re going to call back every 15 minutes until someone does.

    But the bottom line is that a senator or congressman’s personal vehicle is really not public information.

    -Matt

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure my other Senator, Kennedy, has big SUVs. (Someone above already alerted us to Kerry’s SUVs.) Both senators are pretty hippocritical on this one, supporting higher CAFE standards, and claiming support for renewables generally, while doing otherwise in their personal choices (and I’m speaking as a democrat, but then, I voted against both of them in the last election because they both support overpopulation through mass immigration). They also oppose Cape Wind, because Kennedy would be able to see tiny little windmills (that’s how far away they would be) from his mansion in Hyannisport.

  • avatar

    brownie,

    I’ve often communicated with representatives not from my district or state, and I have often received responses from them. I see no good reason why Frank should have been unable to get this info.

    David

  • avatar

    Colin Powell drives old Volvos, and restores them.

    Both Pres Clinton and Newt Gingrich had ’67 Mustangs. Clinton’s is now in a car museum in Arkansas. I don’t know what the status of Gingrich’s is.

  • avatar

    Frank,

    Great article. I think that you are correct in guessing that the Senators do not want the additional scrutiny, not only because they don’t want to appear with gas-guzzlers; they also worry about having the wrong make of car.

    There are plenty of places where you can supply a little bit of pressure. The general political blogosphere is a great place to start. There is nothing better than catching a candidate saying one thing and then doing another, then getting to watch them squirm to explain themselves. People on both sides of the political aisle are likely to have an interest in the results.

    A first step would be to get as many people to digg it, post it to their blogs, etc. Enlist the help of places like autoblog green and jalopnik. See if we can get some outrage going here.

    I tried using the link in the right hand column to digg the article, but it references the Volvo C30 review.

    I have submitted my own if people are interested:
    Digg this article

  • avatar
    hltguy

    Mr. Global Warming Al Gore flies aroud in a private jet. George W drives Ford trucks on his ranch. I don’t know what Hillary drives (or is driven in), perhaps a Gremlin or a Viper?

  • avatar
    brownie

    Interesting, I stand corrected. I guess I just haven’t tried hard enough! :)

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    hltguy SHE TRAVELS BY BROOM

  • avatar
    matt

    hltguy :
    September 12th, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Mr. Global Warming Al Gore flies aroud in a private jet.

    I always found it a bit hypocritical in An Inconvenient Truth when Rev. Gore starts preaching about reducing our impact from the back of a Maybach, or driving around on an old farm in Tennessee in a big Mercedes M-Class, or cruising around in an S-class. When I saw that, I really stopped listening. Petty, I know, but I’m not the one preaching to people about energy usage.

  • avatar
    mlbrown

    Not to mention the fact that Al Gore is just plain wrong.

    -Matt

  • avatar
    Kevin

    I would hope our elected officials would buy a vehicle that would help stimulate the US economy, not an import.

    How could you buy a car, domestic or import, without stimulating the US economy? Obviously buying a domestic vehicle such as a made-in-San Antonio Toyota Tundra or a Made-in-Alabama Mercedes throws a bone to an actual U.S. assembly line worker — I get that part.

    But even if (as is much more likely) I buy a made-in-Japan Civic, I’m still throwing money at some local car salesman, his franchise owner, some banker, and several layers of local government, not to mention an importer, a truck driver or two, a few ad agencies, and the local newspaper, and who knows who else.

    Hell I’d be spewing money all over the place.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    None of these matters compared to those people who ride jets … private or public ones. Commercial arlines are lucky to achieve 50 MPG/person (that’s miles per gallon per person). Short-hop trips are more in the 30 MPGPP range. Then there are the private jets with gallons/mile ratings instead of miles/gallon ratings.

    Jets make 1960’s-era tailpipe emissions look good, too.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Most Senators have millions of constituents back home to mislead/humor/ignore. They have little or no interest in answering queries from people who can’t vote for them. Especially if the answer might be used against them. So all but one of the staffers who actually read your letters consigned them to the round file.

    For years I worked in jobs that gave me a chance to see politicians close up. My motto became “the more you know ’em, the less you like ’em.” As Chancellor Bismarck observed, if you want to retain your appetite for laws or sausages, you shouldn’t see either made.

    And speaking of hypocrisy…forty years ago I saw a parade that included a US Senator waving to crowds from his perch on a Lincoln convertible. His public image was that of an ordinary down-to-earth guy, typical of his conservative, Bible-belt state. After the parade I went over to the car to shake hands with the Senator. While I stood next to the car, waiting my turn, I noticed the floor of the back seat was littered with five or six empty beer cans. I quietly remarked to a bored lackey who was also in the car that the beer cans might draw some criticism. It was as if he’d suddenly noticed a rattlesnake at his feet. He hurriedly kicked the cans under the front seat, and thanked me for the tip.

    A few years later, I did some work with a bank that had the Senator as a customer, and learned his personal finances were in shambles. Of course, in Congress he was on the Finance Committee.

  • avatar
    geeber

    For 10 years, I’ve worked in a state legislature as a staffer.

    Any letter not from the legislator’s district will either be referred to the legislator who does represent that area, or thrown in the circular file.

    Staffers don’t worry about people who live outside the district, and thus cannot vote for (or against) their boss.

    In this state, if the vehicle is leased through the state as part of the legislator’s overall compensation package, a reporter can find out the make, year and model by calling up the clerk’s office for that respective chamber.

    If the legislator does not take advantage of the lease reimbursement package, and pays for the vehicle out of his or her own pocket, that is considered private information. The clerk’s office cannot give out the information, because it doesn’t have a record of it.

    Just out of curiosity, one day, while the General Assembly was in session, I scanned one of the parking areas reserved for legislators and counted the most popular vehicle. The Ford Explorer was the most popular vehicle by a large margin.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I’m going to request this info from my US Representative, Wally Herger, and the two US Senators who represent the State of California, Barabara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. If everybody on this site did the same, I’m sure we could cover a large percentage of the US Senators and Representatives. Of course, I’m also certain that we would get almost no responses.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    Good story 50Merc.

    Also, Clinton had a 67 Mustang too?

    I’ve always wondered why Mustangs’ are such popular cars among politicians and famous serial killers… think Ford will use that in their next advertising campaign?

  • avatar

    hltguy :
    Mr. Global Warming Al Gore flies aroud in a private jet. George W drives Ford trucks on his ranch. I don’t know what Hillary drives (or is driven in), perhaps a Gremlin or a Viper?

    From the original article I wrote in June:

    The Missouri-made Escape Hybrid and its corporate clone (the Mercury Mariner Hybrid) are the politicos’ gesturemobiles du jour. When she’s not being ferried about in an armored Cadillac or Chevy Suburban, Hillary Clinton (well, actually, hubby Bill) drives a refrigerator-equipped Mariner Hybrid. John Edwards and Al Gore both keep the planet cool (warm?) with their Escape Hybrids.

    But as has been widely publicized, Edwards also owns a Pacifica. No telling what Tipper Gore drives.

  • avatar

    Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

    You must: buy domestic, buy green.

    That leaves the Saturn Vue Greenline and the Ford Escape family of trucks.

    I don’t know if the rest of the perks are enough to make up for that.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    @Samir Syed – There’s also the Saturn Aura Hybrid, for what that’s worth.

    However, I’m not absolutely sure politicians are under pressure to buy green. If one were to drive (hypothetical example) a Ford Taurus, it’d ultimately be unnewsworthy. It’s only when they have something that flaunts its single digit fuel economy that anyone cares (especially when the driver in question promotes a green agenda).

  • avatar
    NickR

    it beggars belief that the men and women who are seeking to guide the automotive destiny for tens of millions of Americans, who will write the laws that will control the fate of one of our most important industries, would shrug off any idea of personal accountability

    Frank, you were joking when you said this? You must have been.

  • avatar
    picard234

    I wrote to my Senators and my Congressman. I expect they’ll begin ignoring me immediately.

  • avatar
    James2

    Given that these bozos will soon be dictating that the rest of us have to drive three-cylinder Geo Metros to solve a phantom problem, it does slightly intrigue me to know what they drive (or, more realistically) are driven in.

    Both of my state’s senators are older than dirt, so actually I HOPE and PRAY somebody (presumably younger) is driving them around.

  • avatar
    passive

    In a somewhat interesting related note, just before the August recess, congress passed an amendment to the energy bill, that would require Congresspeople to only lease fuel-efficient vehicles. There’s apparently still some details being worked out in determining which vehicles qualify, but perhaps all your letter scared them into action? Probably not, but it’s a decent step anyway.

  • avatar
    RyanK02

    James2:
    Don’t hate the Geo. A little red hatchback Metro LSi got me to college and back for over 3 years, not including the year I had to drive my dad’s old beater Metro 4-door because my Rabbit (of VW lineage) was FUBAR. (Apparently if they stay parked for 2 months, the gas grows fond of the injection system, which can only be remedied with a carb conversion or a new fuel system..gas tank forward.)

    For basic, economical (ecological?) transportation, my little Metro was a hero.

  • avatar
    RyanK02

    That was not a dig at you, James2. I just wanted to tell my Geo story.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    If one wants the personal car info of a congressman, I suggest the following (both legal, and publicly accessible):

    1. Lexis/Nexis (subscription required) has a sub-database that is a copy of the auto registration data of each state. Just time in the person’s name and you should get license plate, name, make model. Most law firms and some larger research libraries may have this info available.

    2. Go to the DC courthouse (or local courthouse), many courthouses have public computer kiosks that allow you to search for parking tickets/moving violations by name. If such person has been the recipient of a parking ticket or moving violation within the past several years (who hasn’t), then you should find an entry. When you find that person’s moving violation you should get the make/model/etc.

    But even if every congressmen owned a Prius, they folks get driven around so much that the hypothetical Prius or Escape Hybrid is all for show. (imagine 80+ year old Sen. Byrd behind the wheel of a Buick!)

    So yes, whether Democrat or Republican, the pols don’t mind being chauffeured around in the GSA Tahoe for “security” reasons with their requisite entourage.

  • avatar
    210delray

    50merc:

    So you’ve got me curious. Who was this Bible-thumping senator who had the beer cans in his car? Surely being 40 years ago, the guy is probably dead now, and any statute of limitations has long since expired.

  • avatar
    Rick Korallus

    The hypocrisy doesn’t stop at/with the gas guzzlers they drive. Rev. Gore is a prime example. Someone in the mainstream media poked him for living in such a massive house after the release of his movie.
    His excuse/logic/justification: the castle he lives in is okay as an energy waster because he offsets his carbon footprint by investing in green companies.

    Maybe the Iowa farmers who convert b.s. into methane for energy could teach the politicians a thing or two about being self sufficient energy wise!

  • avatar
    50merc

    210delray — nope, the guy (Fred Harris) is still alive, though long gone from the Senate because his conservative constituents soon realized his political ideology was 180 degrees out of sync from theirs. I should make clear that he wasn’t a Bible-thumper himself; the hypocrisy was letting the folks back home think he shared their values. I think he was actually a decent fellow but Potomac fever completely overcame him once he began hanging out with people like Bobby Kennedy.

    By the way, the problem with the beer cans in the car wasn’t just a matter of public image. It was and still is a crime to have even one “open container” in your vehicle. Of course, the laws on motor vehicles and liquor are a crazy quilt all across America. I always thought it odd that New Mexico liquor stores have drive-up windows.

  • avatar
    Paul Milenkovic

    I remember seeing a list of Senator’s rides, maybe it was in WSJ.

    Some of these fine public servants have problems about where they slide their feet in the restroom, but hypocrisy about cars is not one of the big issues here.

    Looking over the list, I remember that the Ford Five Hundred was remarkably popular. I mean think about it, the car is built in Chicago, it is big, yes, but a Senator should be driving something a little bit more secure than a Chevy Aveo, but it has that 6-speed transmission and has what many here consider to be a woefully underpowered motor — an underpowered large domestic car is about as politically-correct on the domestic-content, safety, and saving the environment issues as one can get. The Five Hundred is simply a Volvo in reality, but it is a domestic Volvo.

    A Five Hundred-driving Senator voting for the increased gas-mileage standards is simply saying, “Yes, my next car will be a Five Hundred, only with the 1.2 liter Diesel and the 20-speed transmission that will allow it to keep up with the 18-wheeler trucks.”

  • avatar
    hltguy

    And add Mr Global Warming Gore’s yacht docked in the San Juan Islands in Washington, the private jets, the oliticaly incorrect cars, that is an incovenient truth for that gasbag. In light of recent events and the money that has flowed to the Clintons from China, they probably will be driving one of the first imports from China, as long as it has Astroturf in the back for Bubba.

  • avatar
    otsegony

    Bill and Hillary came to my upstate town two or three years ago and I was quite surprised by their ride. They were being driven in a black Ford conversion van (the kind with the big picture windows cut into the side) escorted by a black Crown Vic. I guess the conversion van was a secret service vehicle, but I didn’t think that it fit the image of either of them…

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    The Associated Press, as I recall, did the best it could on this topic, by assigning one of its people to the topic. Sorry to say, I didn’t print it out or download it to the hard drive. But my memory seems to recall a key thing, that you could perhaps verify with a phone call.

    Senator Lindsey Graham, a noted Republican representing North Carolina (could be wrong about that – from memory), owns a Volkswgen type 181, more commonly known as “The Thing,” exported to the States, circa 1973-’74. If it wasn’t Graham, I am certain that it was some Republican; since the AP took great glea in noting that only a Republican owned a Volkswagen of any sort (and it was the last paragraph in the article).

    On some other relevant points raised earlier by others: Bill Clinton bought the 1966 Ford Mustang six-cylinder, convertible) that is now in a museum somewhere in Arkansas, from his half-brother Roger, who at the time of purchase, was in debt, owing to a drug problem he was confronting with drug treatment. I still have a photo, clipped from a newspaper, showing then President Clinton being driven in the car at a national Mustang meet, somewhere in the SE portion of the U.S. I don’t believe he himself ever really drove the car, very much – a reason he gave it to the museum.

    Today, the ex-president reportedly is whisked around by Secret Service agents in a Mercury Mariner hybrid (source, Auto Notes portion of Parts & People, sometime last year).

    Yes, Colin Powell is a big Volvo buff, still owns some and used to dabble in what is generally called “curb-stoning,” the practice of buying cars, fixing them up and parking them by your home (on the curb) and selling them. He talks about that, and many other things, in his interesting biography, “My American Journey.” One of the best stories in there is how he was trying to milk the gas tank of some old crock of a Volvo he’d gotten to run; yet ran out of gas on a turnpike in Washington D.C. Some kind stranger – perhaps recognizing him – helped him out.

    It was mentioned in the NY Times, when he retired from public service in January, 2005, that he’d bought himself a new Chevrolet Corvette, something he said he’d always wanted, to celebrate. In an interview more recently with Modern Maturity magazine (the magazine for members of the AARP, American Association of Retired Persons), one question was about his interest in Volvos. He had some fun with that and said now he was more keen on Corvettes and still had that one he bought, over two years ago.

    With all due respect, most politicians being attorneys, are not the most imaginative of people (just look at the dearth of ideas in the current crop of presidential candidates, save the off-beat doctor from Texas, Ron Paul). So their vehicular choices would indeed lean towards luxobarges or huge SUVs, just as most attorneys and others of more wealth than creativity.

  • avatar
    morbo

    hitguy will apperciate this. A college buddy of mine was doing grad work at Columbia back in 01-02, when the AlGoracle was in depression over quitting the presidency. He was ‘teaching’ a class at Columbia, which for those that aren’t familiar is an Ivy league school, essentially pedestrian only campus, in Harlem, NYC. Unlike every other student, teacher, worker, & visitor, the AlGoracle was driven straight to his classroom, with a stretch TC limo parked over the grass right in front of the building. Because he conned the secret service into giving him extra protection, they would block off pedestrian access through most of the campus for security. So it forced everyone else at Columbia to walk around the outside perimeter of campus (you know, in Harlem in winter) to get their respective classes, rather than through campus.

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