After attracting scrutiny for accruing numerous per diem payments, Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) let voters know publicly he’s had enough of the accusations when he compared Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital to Nazis.
Last Thursday, ABC27 News reported that Cohen claimed $39,333.75 in per diem payments in 2011, which cover legislators’ meals and lodging while in the state capital.
These payments are mostly tax-free and covered by taxpayer funding.
The ABC report began “Philly, can you hear us?” which Philly Clout said suggested a strong “Philly vs. Harrisburg flavor” – essentially, that the Philadelphia-area Rep. is taking advantage of the system in the capital under the guise of serving a higher public interest.
Although the use of per diem payments is common practice, the nearly $40,000 bill raised eyebrows among state Republicans and government watchdogs like Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital.
And, according to ABC27, while serving as a fill-in co-host on “The Bob Durgin Show,” a 580 A.M. radio show focused on state-level government, Epstein sought an answer from Cohen – who had agreed to a phone interview – as to why his second, untaxed salary exceeded that of many PA residents.
From there on, the program immediately went downhill.
As he had said on Facebook and in past interviews, Cohen called himself, “the hardest-working legislator in Harrisburg,” saying he was entitled to the per diem payment.
Cohen has been part of the legislature for a long time. He has represented the 202nd District, which encompasses portions of Philadelphia, since 1974, and won April’s primary over his opponent, Numa St. Louis, with over 60 percent of the vote.
Epstein questioned how a qualitative observation such as that could be measured, and Cohen called Epstein “a liar who hates the legislature.”
Epstein responded that he hoped legislators, who are elected officials, would be models for their constituents.
And that’s when a minor squabble over per diems blew up.
“I want to lead on the basis of solving problems,” Cohen said. “I don’t want to lead in trying to please the guy (Epstein) who hates legislators the way the Nazis hated Jews.”
Epstein, who’s Jewish, condemned the comment made by Cohen, who’s also Jewish. He said, “one Jew to another, that is never an acceptable comparison.”
Epstein asked whether Cohen was accusing him of being a Nazi. Cohen said he wasn’t, but called Epstein a “fanatic.”
Josh Shapiro, Montgomery County commissioner and fellow Democrat, called Cohen’s comment’s “irresponsible and ignorant” in an email.
“Making cavalier comparisons to Nazis, a regime that murdered over 10 million innocent people, has no place in our political discourse today,” Shapiro said.
“In this case, a reporter was asking legitimate questions about the lawmaker’s abuse of per diems when he was unfairly attacked. Mark owes Eric, his listeners and the people of Pennsylvania an apology.”