Political road led ex-AG Kane to dead end
Two events last week related to former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s tempestuous and truncated term of office offer a lesson for all public officials who have a difficult time separating governance from politics.
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the state Superior Court unanimously upheld Kane’s Aug. 15, 2016, conviction in Montgomery County Court for perjury, false swearing, obstructing the administration of law, official oppression and criminal conspiracy.
She was sentenced Oct. 24, 2016, to 10 to 23 months in prison, but has remained free pending appeal. And she still can petition the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the Superior Court decision.
Earlier in the week, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that bishops of six Catholic dioceses, including Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, had agreed not to contest the public release of an impending grand jury report on sexual abuse by clergy and the dioceses’ handling of those cases.
Kane, who had handled child sexual abuse cases as an assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County, launched that important investigation in 2016.
As the first woman and first Democrat to be elected state attorney general, Kane had an opportunity to take the office in new directions that were not priorities for the long line of Republican men who preceded her in office.
But, like many politicians at many levels, Kane could not resist the temptation to use her power for leverage against her political opponents.
She dove down the rabbit hole of political and personal retribution, foolishly leaking secret grand jury information from an old case to damage the credibility of political enemies within the office, and then lying about it.
She was absolutely correct when she complained that she had encountered a deeply entrenched “old boy network” upon taking office. And she performed an invaluable public service by exposing high-ranking public officials, including two Supreme Court justices and a Corbett administration Cabinet official, who used a state computer network to distribute pornographic, misogynistic and racist material.
But Kane failed to recognize that, in politics, winning is the ultimate revenge against political enemies. And given her groundbreaking status, that especially was true in her case.
The tragedy of Kane’s case is that, if she had attended to business after winning, such as the grand jury investigation of clerical abuse, rather than pursuing the best of three falls with her political enemies, she would be in her second term and pondering a run for higher office rather than scrambling to avoid prison.
The lesson is for public officials is to keep their eye on the ball and recognize that good governance is good politics.
Kane’s myopia should help other officeholders sharpen their focus.