Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: A Good Kaneing

It would have been a Next Day Update had I not taken the glasses off for a few days:

"A former rising star, Pennsylvania’s AG fighting for her political life" by Michael Wines New York Times   December 19, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. — By themselves, the e-mails were arresting enough: videos, photographs, cartoons, and jokes, some depicting sex acts; others mocking or demeaning blacks, gays, Muslims and even the poor and uneducated. But just as disturbing is where they were found: on Pennsylvania government computers, in e-mail accounts whose owner included some of the state’s most powerful figures.

Since Kathleen Kane, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, released the first of the messages last year, a Cabinet officer and a State Supreme Court justice have resigned, another justice is clinging to his job, and scores more have been censured or fired. It is the sort of scandal that an ambitious politician could easily ride to public acclaim and higher office.

Higher office, however, now appears out of the question. For Kane, the e-mail scandal has become a last-ditch weapon in a struggle to keep her job, and perhaps her freedom.

Kane, 49, the first woman and first Democrat to win the attorney general’s post since it became an elective office in 1980, was a rising star in Pennsylvania Democratic politics three years ago. Today, she faces two counts of felony perjury and a host of lesser charges, from abuse of office to conspiracy — the consequences, prosecutors say, of leaking secret grand-jury proceedings in a ham-handed effort to discredit a Republican predecessor.

The charges, bolstered by statements Kane’s employees gave to investigators, prompted the state Supreme Court to suspend her law license; Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, to call for her resignation; and the state Senate to vote unanimously to consider removing her from office.

Yet Kane refuses to leave. She says that she is innocent but also that she has been framed by what she calls a political “old-boys’ network” — the same network, she says, that traded the lewd and bigoted e-mails she released in mid-2014. Removing her from power, she says, would ensure that a trove of still-unreleased e-mails remains unread, and that more political careers are spared from ruin.

“People say to me: ‘I don’t understand how this can happen. We have a system of justice here. How can this happen to you?’ ” Kane said last week during an interview. “And it happens because of the network.”

The state is no stranger to scandal. In recent years, 19 legislative leaders have been convicted or found guilty of diverting state resources to political ends in twin scandals infelicitously called Bonusgate and Computergate. But the seaminess of the latest events and the seeming absence of sympathetic characters have even frustrated political veterans.

Prosecutors say the scandals are rooted in Kane’s zeal to show up her predecessors in her 2012 election campaign. Kane won in no small part by questioning whether the former attorney general, Tom Corbett, a Republican, played politics with the inquiry into sexual abuse of young boys by Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach.

The Sandusky case was managed by Corbett’s chief deputy, Frank Fina, a career prosecutor with a reputation as a unsparing investigator. Fina, who has since sued Kane for defamation, declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed. But multiple accounts suggest that Kane’s attack on the Sandusky investigation was the opening blow in a feud that, court documents say, Kane vigorously pursued.

What I see here is the tip of the iceberg and a cover-up. The unsparing bulldog of a prosecutor stinks of the guy who looked into the Scooter Libby stuff. What it is beginning to look like is Sandusky procured a kid from the elite sex ring and that's the cascading event that caused this inexactitude and obfuscation in my pre$$.

In Kane’s first months in office, a string of high-profile victories — from closing a loophole in gun laws to quashing a Republican effort to privatize the state lottery — cemented her public image as an up-and-coming Democrat. Behind the scenes, though, the battle was joined.

On March 16, 2014, a front-page article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, relying on undisclosed sources, stated that Kane had shut down a sting operation in which several African-American Democratic politicians had been videotaped accepting thousands of dollars from a lobbyist. Fina had initiated the sting in 2010.

She was off the mark.

Kane held a news conference, in which she called the sting “deeply flawed” and racially suspect. Fina told The Morning Call in Allentown that Kane was “pathetic” and “embarrassing for law enforcement.” Kane wrote an e-mail to a media strategist the day the article appeared. “I will not allow them to discredit me or my office,” she said. “This is war.”

Court documents, citing testimony by Kane’s aides, state she soon arranged for reporters at The Philadelphia Daily News to receive documents culled from a 2009 grand jury inquiry by Fina into government grants to a onetime Philadelphia official of the NAACP, J. Whyatt Mondesire. The Daily News wrote an article suggesting that Fina and another prosecutor had inexplicably shut down the inquiry. The article stated that Fina declined to comment, citing grand-jury secrecy. In fact, Fina and fellow prosecutor E. Marc Costanzo, had already demanded that a state grand jury investigate the leaked Mondesire files.

At least they whipped the Sandusky out of it.