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The scoop on the vagrant van

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Since at least June, an Americans for Prosperity Foundation ice cream van with Missouri plates has sat in the overcrowded District Drive park-n-ride lot in Raleigh. Wrapped in red, white and blue, with images of the American flag, the foundation website and a quote from Ronald Reagan, the van is always parked in the same place, indicating that it has rarely, if ever moved.

A freezer inside the truck does not appear to be on; a manual for a Frigidaire has been discarded on the floor.

This is not an innocuous ice cream truck playing "In the Good Ole Summertime" as it rolls down suburban streets. The Koch Brothers founded the AFP Foundation, a sister organization of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative free-market group. Both organizations have chapters throughout the United States, including in North Carolina.

AFP Foundation ice cream trucks have appeared at the group's events in Arkansas, Nevada and California.

In North Carolina, AFP received $1.6 million from the John William Pope Foundation, headed by Art Pope. Until he became deputy budget director under Gov. McCrory, Pope was one of the group's four directors. AFP has also worked to elect conservative lawmakers to the North Carolina legislature.

So how can a vehicle camp out in a park-and-ride lot for nearly three months without being towed? We called the state Department of Transportation and Triangle Transit to find out.

N.C. DOT owns the lot; the Division of Highways oversees it. As a public transportation agency, Triangle Transit can allow its passengers to use it, according to communications officer Brad Schulz.

But vehicles cannot live at these lots, said Jennifer Garifo, spokesperson for N.C. DOT.

She said state transportation officials would visit the lot this week, take down the plate number (7PS 779, expires August 2013), contact the owner and give him or her "a reasonable time to remove the vehicle."

If the owner fails to do that, then DOT "will have it removed," Garifo said.

Americans for Prosperity's North Carolina chapter did not return calls seeking comment.

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