When State Representative Alan Morrison recently accepted a job with Mulhaupt’s Inc. last month, the security firm at the very center of the Indiana vaping laws scandal, he apparently saw no conflict of interest. For several years, Rep. Morrison has actively supported legislation that would ultimately give Mulhaupt’s complete and unbridled authority over every vape shop in the state. According to the new law, if a retailer wants to manufacture and sell their own brands of e-liquids, they first are required to hire a security firm possessing very specific credentials. Unfortunately, Mulhaupt’s is the only firm in Indiana that fits the bill.
To make matters even worse, other security firms wanting to complete with Mulhaupt’s had to become certified in several areas by July 1, 2016. If they failed to meet this deadline, then Mulhaupt’s would remain the one-and-only security firm in Indiana until the law is overturned.
What happened next was a series of lawsuits and court proceedings filed by vape shop owners from all over the entire state. Even though several retailers had contacted Mulhaupt’s to hire the company for their expertise, many of them never even received so much as a return phone call. As the deadline approached for compliance, nearly 50 vape shops closed business within the first 90-days. Meanwhile, Rep. Morrison was secretly meeting with the security firm in search of a new job.
Rep. Alan Morrison and the Indiana vaping laws
The Indiana vaping laws drew so much national attention for being unfair and corrupt that the FBI eventually decided to launch an official probe into the matter. Other state politicians also began to delve deeper into the scandal, vowing to help overturn the laws entirely or to approve an addendum that would disintegrate the Mulhaupt’s monopoly. But all of this political wrangling takes time – time that the over 300 vape shops in Indiana simply do not have.
Even if newly proposed legislation were to be introduced in the State Assembly at some point in the future, Rep. Alan Morrison would still have a legal right to hold meetings, influence other politicians, and even cast a vote. While there is no statute that makes this practice illegal in the state of Indiana, lawmakers and citizens alike are calling for Morrison to recuse himself. A former professor from the McKinney School of Law at Indiana University, David Orentlicher, offers the following public reprisal of Morrison’s actions.
“You wouldn’t go out in the hallway and say, ‘I’m having trouble with my mortgage payment’. It’s an indirect way of doing the same kind of thing. You shouldn't be leveraging your public office to get a new job. You’re supposed to be using your position to benefit your constituents.”
Still Morrison remains adamant that no conflict of interest exists and refuses to give up his new job. When asked if he would promise to recuse himself from further discussions and voting on future Indiana vaping laws, no matter the consequences, Rep. Morrison remained adamant.
“Without a doubt I would (recuse myself). I would expect anybody, whether they work for whatever company, if there was a bill being discussed that directly related to that organization, that legislator is expected to recuse (him or herself).”
It is that word “expected” that is causing vape shop owners a great deal of concern. Politicians like Morrison were the ones who created the Mulhaupt’s vaping monopoly in the first place. How can they trust him to hold true to his word now?