Bad 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.
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.