The saga of Kathleen Kane, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, is a story worthy of the fabled television series, The Wire, with its twists and turns and ensuing exposure of the rottenness of Pennsylvania politics.
Kane (née Granahan) married into the family owning a large trucking and warehousing firm that enjoyed contracts with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, seemingly forever. You see their trucks often on the Turnpike with the words “Kane Is Able” painted on the sides. No doubt their special knowledge and capabilities combined with great bids allowed the firm to retain these contracts for decade after decade.
While Kane’s career as a lawyer was lackluster, her winning of the Democratic Party nomination for AG was helped along by a family loan of $2.25 million and the friendly encouragement of the Clintons. The Kane family maintains serious political clout in the Democratic Party.
But the Attorney General-elect proved to be an eager top cop. Ms. Kane decided to build a career around pursuing prominent miscreants in Pennsylvania—certainly there were many from which to choose. She went after Governor Corbett, suggesting that he stonewalled the Penn State sex scandal. That made her few friends, since rubbing an opposing party politician’s nose in it is considered bad form.
But worse, she tore into Pennsylvania’s nest of corruption, The Turnpike Commission. Historically, the commission was a source of political jobs and a conduit for political contributions, especially for the Democratic Party. She successfully prosecuted several officials, but just as aggressively plea bargained their jail time away. One might opine that her Party’s bigwigs suggested she back away and minimize the damage.
Along the way, Kane drew the attention of some nasty political operatives who vindictively pressed charges against her for “leaking” to the press, a practice as second nature to politicians as molesting the truth.
An inflamed Kane violated the unwritten compact between the two parties not to air the soiled laundry. She went public with the dirt on a host of politicians, judges, and bureaucrats—porno, racism, and misogyny… the nuggets of embarrassing candor that J. Edgar Hoover used to file away for future use.
The battle continues to escalate with Kane exposing some truly big fish: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices.
Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has a history of vindictive, bitter internal conflict as well as real and rumored improprieties. The epic battles between Chief Justice Robert Nix and Justice Rolf Larsen were legendary. Larsen was later removed after a trail of misconduct caught up with him. More recently, Joan Orie Melvin was removed from the Court after felony convictions.
Kane is on the verge of going where no one else has ever gone—knocking off two Supreme Court justices! Her exposure of Justice McCafferty’s salacious e-mail chatter embarrassed him into resigning (McCafferty and Chief Justice Castille had been engaged in a long-standing, petty skirmish exposing each other’s shaky ethics. Castille helped push him into resigning).
Next, Kane set her sights on Justice Eakin, claiming evidence of his off-the-cuff disparaging remarks about African-Americans, Latinos, gays, and domestic abuse victims (nice!).
After Kane raised the charges, the Pennsylvania Judicial Review Board “investigated” and found the charges unfounded. But a little over a week ago, it back tracked and announced that they are re-opening the investigation. The board blamed Kane for not forwarding all of the evidence for the previous “investigation”. One can only marvel at the Board’s singular lack of curiosity about additional evidence in the midst of wide public interest. One can only wonder why it never occurred to the staff to ask about additional evidence or take its own look at the raw collection of e-mails at that time.
But with the Philadelphia Daily News exposing some of the uglier material, the “exoneration” is no longer tenable, casting a shadow over the Board’s competence, even integrity.
While Kathleen Kane is hardly Wikileaks, we owe her thanks for reminding us of how little the judicial system has to do with justice.
It is difficult getting excited about the forthcoming elections, even with many judgeships in play, including three Supreme Court vacancies. Some would like to change the way judges are selected by replacing elections with appointments. But who would make the appointments? Ethically-challenged elected officials? That would simply make the public two removes from choosing their judges.
One candidate will get my vote, however: David Wecht for Supreme Court. I don’t know much about him, but he did attend an immigrant rights rally and march in the spring, offering literature and showing open support for immigrant rights. The simple truth is that most politicians—even the so-called “progressives”– won’t touch this issue or many other “controversial” ones in an election year.
But if you can’t support my causes, you don’t get my vote!
So Wecht gets my vote.