Written by Stephen Dennis | Bloomberg
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to sell a Tesla. Ted Cruz is considering buying one.
Driving an electric car made by Elon Musk is an increasingly burdensome decision for lawmakers. Getting out of a Capitol Hill parking lot could be a signal in support of renewable energy — but with Musk diving into partisanship, it could also be a political symbol.
The CEO of Tesla Inc. More recently, Republicans declaring support for the Republican Party and unleashing a torrent of criticism of Democrats, unions and what he calls the “wake-up mind virus.”
“He’s a billionaire. I didn’t care what he thought,” said Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat who recently had a Twitter flick with Musk, when asked about his support for the Republican Party.
Ocasio-Cortez bought her Model 3 to travel between Washington and the Bronx-Queens area after Covid-19 hit in 2020. Now, the New York actress wants to give it up for an electric car made by union workers. “At the time, it was the only electric car that could get me from New York to Washington on a one and a half charge,” she said. “I love switching.”
The only Union-made electric vehicles for sale in the US are the Chevrolet Bolt, the slightly larger Bolt EUV and the Ford F-150 Lightning truck. The Bolt was only available for sale in 2020.
Texas Republican Senator Cruz, who represents the state most closely associated with the fossil fuel industry, welcomes Musk to the GOP, describing his planned acquisition of Twitter Inc. It is “the most significant development of freedom of expression in decades”. He’s high because the musk is from Texas.
“When Elon moved to Texas, I spent 45 minutes on the phone with him, urging him to come to Texas and say, ‘Look, we love jobs in Texas, we don’t want you to shut down, we want you to come’,” Cruz said. In addition to Tesla’s Gigafactory and headquarters in Texas, Musk’s SpaceX has a launch site near the Texas-Mexico border town of Boca Chica.
Although there is no complete account of how many federal lawmakers own Teslas, at least 10 representatives or senators do, according to a tally by Bloomberg News. Many of the members of what might be called Tesla’s caucus are those who would be expected to have an interest in a zero-emissions car, such as Green New Deal co-author Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper.
But not all peers who drive Tesla cars fit this profile. Republican Representative Thomas Massey of Kentucky is likely the only Tesla Model S driver in Congress with a “Friends of Coal” license plate. Massey was one of the first converts to Tesla in Congress, being handed over in January 2013 after a long wait.
“The car I’m driving is serial number 3347,” Massey said proudly.
Massey, an MIT-trained engineer, says he only has one individual stock — a Tesla — that he bought after installing a wrecked Model S battery to support the solar panels in his off-grid home. The 2020 financial disclosure form shows Massie’s Tesla shares were worth between $15,001 and $50,000.
“This is not a car company, this is a battery company,” he said. “The car is just their first killer application.”
Massey said he is unlikely to support antitrust legislation targeting big tech companies, having come close to backing the idea, now that Musk has agreed to take over a major social media platform.
“But then Elon comes in and buys Twitter,” he said. “This might be what I’m looking for.”
While Musk’s personality is closely intertwined with his trademarks, Democrats often choose to separate the man from the car. Carber sold his beloved Chrysler Town and Country pickup truck for nearly 600,000 miles last year and traded it in for a red Tesla Model Y. The new long-range Model Y now costs more than $64,000 after destination, fees, and before taxes.
“It’s a lot of fun to drive,” the Delaware senator said, adding that it saves a lot on gasoline. “I’m able to charge it at home, and plug it in at 10 p.m. when electricity prices are very low, so it’s a good deal.”
Other Democrats who own Tesla — including intelligence chief Adam Schiff of California, David Cislin of Rhode Island, Lisa Blunt of Rochester of Delaware and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey — have also kept Musk’s right-wing political approach away from their vehicle choice.
But Musk doesn’t make it easy for lawmakers to ignore him. The richest person in the world is also the CEO of SpaceX, a major government contracting company. Tesla’s driver assistance feature known as Autopilot is under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing Musk’s bid for Twitter over antitrust concerns, although it is unlikely to stand in the way of closing the deal.
Read more: Tesla’s autopilot raises US alarm as ‘disaster waiting to happen’
Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, who has done consulting work for SpaceX, is another Democratic Tesla driver in Congress.
Kelly has a black S Performance model that he says can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just over two seconds. “This car is a lot of fun to drive. It’s also good for the environment in general, right? Zero emissions.” Kelly represents a state where gasoline prices are above the national average.
Kelly also flew a space shuttle and an A6-E Intruder attack plane for the Navy, so he has some credibility when he calls Musk a “very good engineer.” He views Musk’s plans for Twitter through that lens. “There is engineering, especially software engineering, behind any kind of application, even Twitter — there is always room for improvement,” he said. “we will see.”
Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico was one of the first buyers of the Tesla Model 3 who worked on a solar-powered electric car as an engineering student at the University of Missouri.
Heinrich, like most Democrats, sees Musk as a man full of contradictions.
“I’m not a fan of Musk, but I appreciate him, for example, he’s incredibly smart and arrogant,” he said. “People can separate these things. Does he pay more taxes? Yes. Do I want him to stop making cars? Of course not.”
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