By George P. Hassett, Senior Editor
Before Barack Obama was a United States senator and a presidential hopeful, he was a Harvard University law student living in Somerville who parked in bus stops and accumulated hundreds of dollars in parking tickets. And for nearly two decades those parking tickets went unpaid, until a representative of Obama’s settled all his outstanding debts with Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department Jan. 26.
Obama attended Harvard Law School from 1988 to 1991. During his time at Harvard, Obama lived at 365 Broadway in Somerville, according to his parking tickets. Records from the Cambridge Traffic, Parking and Transportation office show that between Oct. 5, 1988 and Jan. 12, 1990 Obama was cited for 17 traffic violations, sometimes committing two in the same day. The abuses included parking in a resident permit area, parking in a bus stop and failing to pay the meter. Twelve of Obama’s 17 tickets were given to him on Massachusetts Avenue.
In one eight day stretch in 1988, Obama was cited seven times for parking violations and was fined $45. Thirteen of the 17 violations occurred within one month in 1988.
Obama’s disobedience of the rules of the road earned him $140 in fines from the City of Cambridge. The tickets went unpaid for over 17 years and $260 in late fees were added to the tab. On Jan. 26, the fines and late fees were paid in full. The final tally for Obama’s parking breaches was $400, according to Cambridge Traffic, Parking and Transportation.
Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the presidential candidate’s parking violations were not relevant.
“He didn’t owe that much and what he did owe, he paid,” Psaki said. “Many people have parking tickets and late fees. All the parking tickets and late fees were paid in full.”
Psaki declined to comment further. She refused to say how the fines went unpaid so long and what prompted Obama to finally pay them.
At Harvard, Obama became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. After school, he spent eight years in the Illinois state senate before becoming a United States Senator in 2005. He is currently campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president.