Pennsylvania’s attorney general has charged State Rep. Margo Davidson (D-Delaware) with stealing from the commonwealth by filing false expense reports, then getting a witness to lie during the investigation.
In a statement announcing the charges, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Davidson had “accepted responsibility” and had already resigned, and added that state lawmakers “swear an oath to use their office for public service — not fraudulent personal gain.”
Davidson’s alleged theft centers on one of the most maligned systems in Pennsylvania government: legislative per diems. Lawmakers in the general assembly are allowed to collect a flat-rate payment every time they travel more than 50 miles from their house to conduct legislative business. The exact amount can vary, but it starts at $178 per day — one of the country’s highest per diem rates for state lawmakers — and they don’t need to provide any receipts.
Davidson, the AG’s office alleges, took advantage of that lack of transparency. The office says a grand jury found she filed overnight per diem requests for nights when she wasn’t in Harrisburg, and got state reimbursements for expenses her campaign had already paid for. She’s also charged with violating the state election code by failing to report campaign finance information.
All that, along with her alleged use of a false witness during the AG investigation, amounted to misdemeanor charges for theft, solicitation to hinder apprehension, and election code violations.
According to Shapiro, Davidson waived her preliminary hearing and already paid back the money she allegedly siphoned: $6,925.
This isn’t the first time that Davidson, who is 58 and was elected to her southern Delaware County district in 2011, has found herself in hot water for taking advantage of legislative perks.
She was a longtime user of taxpayer-funded cars and, over the course of one three-year period, was involved in three accidents in two different vehicles, all of which required pricey, state-funded repairs totaling more than $30,000, according to reporting by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In one of the incidents, she rear-ended another car and then left the scene while driving on a suspended license. In another, she left her state car unattended in her driveway with the keys in the ignition, and it was stolen and crashed.
The nature of the incidents and the cost to taxpayers inspired some lawmakers to attempt — unsuccessfully, so far — to pass a bill getting rid of legislative vehicles once and for all. Davidson spoke passionately against the bill on the House floor, calling it “cancel culture.”
Davidson didn’t return requests for comment.
House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) said in a statement that she is “saddened” by the charges against Davidson, and said her decision to accept responsibility had the upside of ensuring “the important work she led in the House State Government Committee can continue without interruption or distraction and the people’s right to vote can be defended against all attacks.”
House Democrats, she said, have already started the process of choosing a new minority chair for the key committee.
McClinton added that Davidson “was the first woman — and first Black woman — to represent the 164th Legislative District and serve as a House State Government Committee Chairperson,” and that the now-former representative was “dedicated to her constituents and always fought her hardest for those in need in Delaware County.”
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