Alexi Defends State's "Escape" Expense

State college fund paid for hybrid SUV

By Steve Rhodes
|  Tuesday, May 5, 2009  |  Updated 7:34 AM CDT
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Giannoulias' New SUV

State of Illinois

And then I take the money from your college savings plan and buy a new car!

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Giannoulias' New SUV

Thousands of parents use the Bright Start program to pay for their children's college, but some of that money bought our state treasurer an SUV.
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There was more trouble Monday for state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias's already-questionable handling of the state's Bright Start college savings fund: the Tribune reported that Giannoulias used proceeds from the fund to buy a Ford Escape Hybrid.

Giannoulias responded Monday afternoon to the Trib's questions about the pricey SUV, saying it was a marketing expense to replace a 10-year-old vehicle.  The treasurer added that Bright Start marketers use the SUV to travel the state and sign up more people, and the Escape will save the program money over the long term.

"This is a vehicle that is used for Bright Star marketers to travel the state, to talk about the program, and it's one of the most inexpensive programs" in the United States, Giannoulias told reporters Monday.

The treasurer admitted his staff hasn't been keeping track of how the vehicle is used, but said he has never used it for personal reasons.  Giannoulias said that was "probably an oversight," and said they will log its use in the future.

And as if this somehow makes the situation better instead of more puzzling, the Tribune reported that, "Though the SUV is registered to Illinois license plate No. 6, Burnham said there are three such vehicles with that plate and that Giannoulias drives all of them, plus his personal car, which also is a Ford Escape Hybrid."

Tribune commenter "Den" asked the question the paper missed:  "Just wondering: How can three cars have the same plate number?"

Send your kids to college through the Bright Start program and learn how!  Meanwhile, Giannoulias is scheduled to give the commencement address at Prairie State College later this month.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, an award-winning Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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