Yesterday’s big Inquirer story is pretty complex, and the gigantic font they used for the headline certainly makes it seem like they must’ve caught Kane doing something pretty bad . But in reality it looks like there’s a lot less here than meets the eye.
1. This story was clearly fed to the Inquirer by Frank Fina, a former top deputy to Tom Corbett when he was Attorney General.
Kathleen Kane is probing Fina’s botched handling of the Sandusky case, and the Corbett team is anxiously awaiting the release of that report.
The release of the Sandusky report will of course be one of the major events in the 2014 race for Governor, and the Fina and Corbett people have been encouraging the view that it would somehow be inappropriate to release the report during election season. Heaven forbid Tom Corbett be held accountable for the performance of his prior elected office.
It’s pretty hard not to come away thinking that this is Fina trying to throw some dirt on Kane ahead of the release of the Sandusky report. If he can color her actions as politically motivated in this case, people may be more receptive later when he inevitably says the Sandusky probe, or the timing of its release, is politically motivated.
2. Kathleen Kane’s targets for political corruption investigations don’t reveal any partisan pattern.
The charges against Democratic state Senator LeAnna Washington are just the latest example that puts the lie to the
Fina/Corbett camp’s anonymous sources’ accusations that Kane is avoiding going after Philly Democrats in order to advance her statewide political ambitions. First of all that doesn’t even make political sense. “Racially conservative” Democrats in the rest of the state would love it if Kane went after the Philadelphia delegation. Second off all, as her statement responding to the Inquirer story notes, the majority of the public corruption cases she’s brought involve Democrats:
“My record speaks for itself that prosecutions have no political agenda. Of the 11 public corruption cases we have brought so far, the majority involve Democrats. I will not sit back and allow lies from those who seek to destroy the public’s trust in me or my office.”
This skewed (toward Democrats) record invalidates the central premise of the story, but the Inky still ran with it anyway for some reason.
3. There’s no evidence of a quid pro quo gifts for votes scandal
The Inky article simply doesn’t have the goods on any link between gifts and votes. A Democrat doesn’t need a Tiffany bracelet to be persuaded to vote against Voter ID!
Did the sting Kane cancelled catch some Philly Democrats doing stupid things? There’s no question about it. Did it catch anyone doing illegal things? Well, you have non-disclosure of gifts, which Adam Bonin has been pointing out is a misdemeanor. And he also notes there’s no legal limit on the gifts politicians (or their spouses) can accept from lobbyists. They just have to be disclosed, and there can’t be a quid pro quo – a connection that the Inky article emphatically does not make.
Everyone should absolutely be scandalized by the ridiculously weak state ethics laws concerning gifts, and we should pass a new state law at least as strict as what’s being proposed in Philadelphia. That’s the correct target for people’s ire here.