At Least She’s Not Your Attorney General…Yet

WashPost-Scandal-71615-500Bad news today for Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, as the AP reports from Harrisburg:

The state’s top prosecutor was charged Thursday with leaking secret grand jury information and lying about her actions under oath.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane leaked information to a political operative to pass to the news media “in hopes of embarrassing and harming former state prosecutors she believed, without evidence, made her look bad,” Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said at a news conference announcing the charges.

Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected attorney general in Pennsylvania, was charged with perjury, obstruction and abuse of office.

“No one is above the law, not even the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Pennsylvania,” Ferman said.

The indictment of Pennsylvania’s AG comes the same week as Texas Attorney General Kenneth Paxton was charged with securities fraud that allegedly occurred when he served in the state legislature. In our neighboring state of Utah, two successive former state attorneys general now face felony charges. As Alan Greenblatt writes in Governing as part of a story freshly updated with these latest AG-related follies, the position of chief law enforcement officer brings with it a higher perception of responsibility:

A striking number of current and former state AGs are facing criminal charges or investigations. The five cases, which range from allegations of corruption to campaign finance violations, are unrelated and differ in levels of seriousness. But they all illustrate one point: As attorneys general have grown more powerful, they’ve become tempting targets for their fellow prosecutors and political rivals…

In addition to Kane and Paxton, Greenblatt cites the two Utah attorney generals we noted above, along with Vermont AG Bill Sorrell who is being investigated for campaign coordination with an outside group.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

And one other example:

[I]n Colorado, critics accused GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman of extortion, saying that she and a former congressman and a county party chair warned state GOP Chair Steve House that if he didn’t resign, word would get out about an alleged affair.

“I think this is something that will follow her,” said former GOP state House Speaker Frank McNulty. [Pols emphasis] “From what I know and what I’ve read, there’s no there there for criminal charges, but it’s something she’s going to have to deal with politically.”

As McNulty points out, attorneys general are held to a higher standard than other state officials. Whenever one appears to be in any kind of legal trouble, the press invariably describes the AG as “the chief law enforcement officer in the state.”

We’ll leave our readers to ponder why former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty is ready and willing to scumbag fellow GOP Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. But he makes one critical point we’ve underscored as well: the position of attorney general is not your ordinary political office. There is a higher obligation to remain free of any appearance of corruption, or political misuse of the office’s considerable power.

That’s the test that Cynthia Coffman failed. Unfortunately for Colorado’s attorney general, we can’t share McNulty’s optimistic forecast that criminal charges are unlikely–the latest information we have still indicates that hasn’t yet been determined.

But this certainly reinforces how she is politically damaged beyond repair.

11 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Kane was caught up in a tit-for-tat fight with Republicans who used to control the AG's office, including those who supported her predecessor. That includes the DA who ran the grand jury process that indicted her.

    The evidence presented against her is pretty strong – I'm in no way defending her at this point. But the Republicans who attacked her were no less sleazy – the state is a royal mess right now after years of partisan (and often corrupt) Republican control.

    • Moderatus says:

      Actually, it sounds like you're defending her.

      • Nope. "Everyone does it" is a Republican thing when it comes to defense. Kane appears quite clearly to have stepped over the line in revealing grand jury testimony. I leave in the hedge because it is a grand jury process, and one run by a political opponent: there's always room to be misled by a "ham sandwich" indictment.

        I just wish there was more of a clean-up going on in the state. It was my home for most of my school days, and I still have family ties there.

  2. Moderatus says:

    More lame guilt by association tactics, Pols? This time it's a DEMOCRAT Attorney General too. You should probably mention that.

  3. There's not a lot of support for AG Kane at this point. The Democratic governor of the state has called for her resignation and liberal pundits have called the whole thing "sad" and "petty". The front-page dKos article on the indictment says the best she can probably hope for is to enter a plea deal for a reduced sentence in exchange for her stepping down from office – and that's pretty wise counsel IMHO.

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