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When Car Wash Business Goes Bad: How One Kansas City Congressman Got Himself Into Debt

(Photo: Screenshot/KansasCity.com)

(Photo: Screenshot/KansasCity.com)

Sometimes car wash businesses go south. That was the case for a Kansas City congressman who now owes Bank of America more than $1 million for an ill-fated business loan. On Tuesday, according to the Kansas City Star, a judge ordered that a third party garnish the wages of U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, from his employer, the federal government.

“As the congressman and Mrs. Cleaver have repeatedly said, for almost two years now, they are working with Bank of America to meet their financial obligations, in a broad spectrum of ways, and that hasn’t changed,” Cleaver’s office said in a statement obtained by the Star. The congressman’s wife, Dianne, is also responsible for the $1.3 million debt. Cleaver looks to be paying a little over $8,000 per month out of his salary of $174,000.

It all started in 2002 when Cleaver decided to buy a car wash in Grandview, a town south of the city on the Missouri side. But the business didn’t do well at all, and it has been a political headache for Cleaver ever since. According to previous reports in the Star, Cleaver said the car wash was a personal investment that he made after he served as mayor and before he was elected to Congress.

But as early as 2004, things we’re going well. That year he revealed that he wasn’t making some property tax payments. Last year, Cleaver finally sold the car wash to a real estate firm that specializes in car wash businesses for less than $500,000 even though the congressman’s debt had already risen to about $1.6 million, the Star reported. “We are saddened the business wasn’t successful,” Cleaver said at the time.

The Small Business Administration was said to be on the hook for three-fourths of the loan, and the agency might be responsible for kicking in a portion of the debt obligation if Cleaver is unable to pay. “We recognize our responsibilities and continue to work in good faith to resolve this issue and meet all of our legal obligations,” Cleaver said in a statement last year, according to the Star.

The former Grandview Car Wash, as seen from Google Maps. (Photo: Screenshot/Google Maps)

The former Grandview Car Wash, as seen from Google Maps. (Photo: Screenshot/Google Maps)

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