From 'Comrade Barbara' to Limousine Liberal: Barbara Lee Dropped $20K On Luxury Cars, Filings Show

Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.) / Getty Images
March 20, 2023

California congresswoman Barbara Lee (D.) has come a long way since her days praising communists, spending over $20,000 in campaign funds on chauffeured cars and limousines over the last election cycle.

Among the luxury travel expenses from Lee, who was once known to her leftist allies as "Comrade Barbara," are more than $5,000 to a Washington, D.C., limousine service that boasts a fleet including a Hummer limousine, according to its website. And she spent more than $7,000 on a "premier taxi service" in Martha's Vineyard, the small Massachusetts island on the other side of the country from her district. All told, the Oakland Democrat spent at least $22,862 on travel last cycle, federal financial disclosures show.

Lee's spending could tarnish her progressive image as she vies for retiring Democrat Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat. A former left-wing activist known for her communist sympathies and ties to Soviet front groups, Lee has pitched herself as "a voice for the people." Lee is leaning on her progressive bona fides as she battles for Feinstein's seat against her well-funded California colleagues, fellow Democratic representatives Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.

Lee's office did not respond to a request for comment.

A review of the congresswoman's campaign receipts show she knows how to travel in style. For just $316, Singh Car Service, her preferred chauffeur for travel inside the Beltway, will transport riders from town to Dulles Airport in a Hummer limousine, a Washington Free Beacon review of the website found. An extra $110 gets you a bottle of French champagne for the trip, while $750 buys a team of bodyguards.

Lee calls Adam Cab during her frequent fundraising trips to Martha's Vineyard, the posh beach resort island best known for deporting illegal immigrants. Lee spent $7,206 on rides from Adam Cab, which bills itself as the island's "premier taxi service." It is not entirely clear why Lee spends so much time on Martha's Vineyard, though it appears to be related to fundraising—Lee rented seven different venues on the island for campaign events from June through September.

Back home in San Francisco, Lee hired K&B Luxury Limousine Service in the East Bay, running tabs from $165 to $626. She also spent $1,948 on Fresno's Royal Coach Limousines, whose website shows vintage Jaguar saloon cars and limos.

Lee dropped considerably more on luxury travel than her fellow California Democrats. Returns for Rep. Anna Eshoo, who represents Silicon Valley, show she spent about $3,189 on ground transportation last cycle. Recently retired representative Jackie Speier's returns show she spent just around $527.42 on Uber and Lyft.

Lee's prodigal spending of campaign funds comes as she bemoans the difficulties of fundraising while black.

"For me to raise money, being a Black woman progressive, is 10 times harder than it is for anybody else," Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle in January. "And that's, again, part of this whole political system in this country and how people are viewed."

Lee has a history of defending communists and murderers, including Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and notorious cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. In 2001, she submitted a report to the United Nations claiming that Abu-Jamal was "framed" for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner because of his ties to black activist groups. One of Lee's coauthors was former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.), who has said "Zionists" were behind 9/11.