Pa. legislator offers to repay turnpike toll of national Christmas tree

December 27, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- Mortified by what he calls Pennsylvania' callous treatment of the man who drove the national Christmas tree to Washington, state Rep. John Lawless says he wants to repay the $266 that a truck driver shelled out to get the tree off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

So, he said yesterday, he intends to dip into his campaign funds, find out the address of the Minnesota veterans' organization that already has reimbursed trucker Dick Willie and send the money to the club.

"I don't know what the ethics rule is on using campaign funds," he said.

"That's something I'm going to have to look at. Critics will say I'm using them for a political purpose. But I believe those who support me would believe that it's a good cause. I can't see where it would hurt.

"I've seen $266 spent in a lot worse ways on elections.

"If the state wants to come after me for taking $266 out of my campaign fund to help out Pennsylvania from a national embarrassment, then let them further embarrass themselves."

Mr. Lawless said that he saw a newspaper item about Mr. Willie, of Deer River, Minn., who donated his time, labor and truck earlier this month to transport the 62-foot spruce from the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota to Washington.

Mr. Willie complained that after he was given free passage through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, he was forced -- because his truck was classified as a Class 9 oversized vehicle -- to pay the maximum toll on the Pennsylvnia Turnpike.

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