by Jay A. McCalla
As the leaves turn and darkness readies to greet us earlier, I cannot help but consider the impending and aberrant sunset of Kathleen Kane, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Four years ago, she campaigned across this state with Bill Clinton at her side, aiming to be the first female AG in the history of the commonwealth. Kane’s bold run gained national attention and positioned her to become a prominent political figure in a presidential battleground state, multiplying her clout.
Given her timing, trajectory and ties to the 42nd president, it’s very easy to imagine Kane would be deployed as a high profile endorser and media/campaign surrogate for candidate Hillary Clinton and, accordingly, may have looked credibly to a post in the new administration. Attorney General, maybe? Or, she could use her chit with Hillary to gain backing in a future run for governor or U.S. Senate. That’s the way the game works.
Four years ago, she was Kathleen Kane Esq., and the future seemed exciting. That was then. This is now. So much has changed that even her “Esq.” is in doubt.
Today, she stands stripped of her law license and sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail as Hillary marches, without her, to the White House.
Her term was disastrous with years of scandal focusing on the lewd and culturally abrasive emails she uncovered that were exchanged between the high and mighty. Those emails were a Pandora’s Box for the many – including two Supreme Court Justices – who had their careers ended.
Kane promoted the scandal with the sequenced release of emails by the batch and dubbing the authors “porn peddlers.”
Her battles with subordinates metastasized into nasty headlines, a feud with the Philly DA, accusations of blackmail and legal intervention.
Multiple nails were simultaneously driven into her coffin in August when she was convicted of orchestrating an illegal leak of grand jury material to embarrass a political foe and lying about it under oath.
Perhaps her lowest moment in office – and as a human being – was her challenge to Gov. Tom Wolf’s moratorium on the death penalty, which she wanted heard by the Supreme Court. To enhance the credibility of her challenge, Kane specifically asked the court to order the execution of Hubert Lester Michael Jr., a 22-year resident of Death Row. It’s one thing to try and score political points. It is quite another to deliberately, politically joust with a human life.
As a phenomenally bad actor is driven from the political stage, we may take some comfort in the various ways our system works to expel pernicious elements.
As distressing as it is to constantly read about political indictments, convictions and expulsions, the good news is we keep indicting, convicting and expelling. Three state reps were forced to resign with one still on trial. A congressman is headed to prison and a state senator is under indictment.
Even more encouraging is the prosecutorial capacity to “nail their hides” long after the reprobates have left office.
Several years after his decision to resign from office, former Sheriff John Green has been indicted by a federal grand jury for bribery. Former State Treasurer Barbara Hafer, out of office for more than a decade, has been charged with taking $700,000 in “consulting fees” in exchange for corrupting her office.
By no means is our system of governance equipped to weed out all of the corrupt and unstable personalities that are drawn to the public trough. Most, with manageable levels of venality, will escape public and grand jury attention. But, those who broadly and aggressively “color outside the lines” run a genuine risk of discovery and punishment.
Jay A. McCalla is a former deputy managing director and chief of staff for Philadelphia City Council. He does political commentary on WURD900AM and contributes to Philadelphia Magazine. He can be followed and reached on Twitter @jayamccalla1.