A Haircut That Could Cost Democratic State Senator John Morse

by Jim Geraghty

Out in Colorado, one of the pro-recall groups is hitting state senator John Morse for collecting his per diem for “haircuts and golf games.”

Morse and his defenders will undoubtedly respond that he’s been investigated and cleared of any illegal wrongdoing:

The per diem ethics complaint was filed in 2011 concerning expenses filed in 2009. All lawmakers are eligible to collect daily per diem during the 120-day legislative session, and Morris in 2009 was one of 11 lawmakers to bill for the full 120 days.

But Morse also billed taxpayers $99 a day for leadership pay on 206 or 239 days when the legislature is out of session, which lawmakers in leadership positions are allowed to do — that was the focus of the complaint.

The complaint was dismissed by a panel charged to investigate, but conservatives have continued to hit Morse over the per diem issue, even noting that the ethics committee that cleared him was dominated by Democrats.

A few details about that panel: “The ethics panel, comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans, reviewed the complaint and unanimously voted Tuesday to dismissed it, acknowledging that a senator’s word alone is sufficient for claiming legislative per diem payments.” In short, he said he did legislative work on those days, and that was good enough for them; no need to verify that he actually did work related to his state-office duties. The panel also decided to request new guidelines about how much time a lawmaker should devote to public business to claim a full day of payments.

Of course, a lawmaker’s choice to make the taxpayers pay for his haircut is the sort of thing that infuriates voters.

In Morse’s defense, he has a good head of hair:

If a lawmaker doesn’t want a per diem reimbursement appearing in an ad before a recall election, he probably shouldn’t take it.

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