She used to be Harper's press attaché
Carolyn Stewart Olsen, a senator who enjoyed the confidence and loyalty of Prime Minister Stephen Harper got nailed this week for unjustified Senate expenses.
She racked up $ 63,594 in travel allowances and housing in Ottawa during the first 19 months after she was appointed by Harper in 2009. A Senate Internal Economy committee is investigating how much more she claimed in the years that followed.
Worse than that. Stewart Olsen sat on that three-member Senate committee and investigated Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau as well as Liberal Mac Harb.
There was no suspicion she had done much the same sort of thing.
When she was on the committee, it seemed to be doing a good job, except that its investigative report on Senator Duffy was seen by some as “going too easy" on Duffy.
But the focus changed quickly when Duffy got his hands on a beautiful gift of $ 90,000 from the Prime Minister's Office. It came from Nigel Wright, who was Harper’s chief of staff. Harper quickly showed Wright the door when Wright announced the gift publicly.
Duffy used the money to pay back the Senate for the expenses he should never have claimed.
Prime Minister Harper did not defend Stewart Olsen this week, in contrast to his passionate defense of Senator Pamela Wallin last month. That was until the evidence against Wallin became indefensible.
It appears Stewart Olsen also claimed “per diem” payments for some days the Senate was not in session, and she was not working.
Yesterday she said she should not have made such claims, and it intends to repay the money to the Senate.
Stewart Olsen claimed her main residence was in New Brunswick, despite the fact that she had an Ontario driver's license, an Ontario health card and she lived in an Ottawa condo which she recently sold for $ 465,000.
We still do not know if Harper has asked her to leave the Conservative caucus while the investigation continues. And she hasn’t offered.
She will not have the luxury of investing herself. She is no longer on the committee. Somebody else will be found.
It's always sad when a senator who has the confidence of a prime minister ends up in such a mess, but there’s possibly a lesson here for Harper who might want to consider his Senate appointments more carefully.