Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mark Cohen: Big Reader, Bigger Asshole

In some cities, Drinking Liberally invites speakers for formal engagements; here, politicos just pull up a chair, and if a patron starts an argument with one, it's up to him to handle his business. Rep. Cohen, for example, has attended three Drinking Liberallys, and has taken flak there for voting in favor of the legislative pay raise.

"It was one guy making complaints that have been in the newspapers countless times," Cohen says.

This time, though, it wasn't the newspapers saying it — it was just some guy in a bar. But because politicians are meeting bloggers on their own turf, and because of the democratic spirit of blogging, the guy got to say it to Cohen's face.

That "one guy" was ME. And damn right I was mad, and I still am: to this day, Mark Cohen has NOT returned the 16% pay raise (with more perks than I can count) that he and the rest of Pennsy's legislators voted to give themselves at 2:00 AM, before scuttling off for their homes down the shore for the summer recess.

I was blunt with Mr. Cohen, but certainly not rude. Cohen, on the other hand, was arrogant and dismissive to me. He didn't see granting himself a 16% pay raise as problematic, and he certainly didn't care very much about "one guy making complaints" (he also neglected to mention that everyone sitting with me at the table agreed that the raise was outrageous).

I don't know how I missed this one, but now it looks like Mr. Cohen wasn't content to give himself a big fat 16% raise: he's also decided to build his own personal library at taxpayer's expense.

Over the last two years, the state has reimbursed the veteran legislator $28,200 on bookstore spending sprees, a review of expense records shows. He spent $1,118 in September alone, making nine trips to bookstores.

This has allowed the Philadelphia Democrat to expand his personal library by more than 800 titles.
Cohen's book bill for 2004 and 2005 is more than what the Philadelphia School District spent to stock library shelves at the two high schools and two middle schools in his legislative district. The four schools, which have a combined enrollment of 5,000 students, spent $21,600 on books and periodicals in that two-year period, officials said.

Many of Cohen's fellow House members don't ask the state to pay for books they read, and for those who do, it's typically just a few a year, records show.

Cohen defended making taxpayers foot the bill, saying that the books - nearly all of them works of nonfiction - make him a better legislator.

"I try very hard to be informed on current events. I'm holding myself to standards of excellence," said Cohen."

And just what were those "works of nonfiction" that make Cohen a better legislator?

The Little Book of Stress, AOL for Dummies, and Zen of Gambling, which explores a contrarian approach to sports betting.

The state also paid for Cohen's copy of The Book of Positive Quotations.

What's really sad is that Cohen's father, the late David Cohen, is legendary in this city for his tireless work for the poor and the disenfranchised. It's worth pointing out that the son looks an awful lot like he acts: piggish.

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One of these is a man who feels a little too comfortable gorging at the public trough.


Blogger Phillybits said...

I remember what I think was the first time you confronted him at DL. He was very shaky and nervous when you called him out on that payraise and he tried to argue his point, but not very good and certainly, in the end, unsuccesfully.

Good work, Brendan.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...


I received an email from the guy who wrote the article linked above; Cohen has not only NOT returned the money he gave himself, he says he has no plans to return it in the future.

Oink oink oink.

9:34 AM  
Blogger somegirl said...

i fucking hate mark cohen.
i'll never forget how rude he was at eschaton where he was on a panel - y'know a bunch of people at a table in front of the room. when another person was speaking he actually picked up a newspaper and started leafing through and reading it. unbelievable.

6:52 PM  

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