Pennsylvania’s Senate will begin a process next month that could topple the commonwealth’s embattled attorney general, Kathleen Kane.
A special Senate panel voted 5-2 to recommend that the full chamber take up the question of whether Kane can do her job with a suspended law license. The procedure would begin only with approval from the full Senate. Following that, there would be a public hearing for Kane to defend herself. The Senate could then ask the governor to remove Kane with a two-thirds majority vote.
“I think we’re being judicious. I think we’re being meticulous in the process,” said Drew Crompton, chief counsel to and spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati. “We want to be deliberate. This is a big deal. This is a very significant issue that the Senate is presented.”
Kane’s law license has been suspended in light of perjury charges and other criminal counts filed against her.
Two Democratic senators on the Senate panel voted against moving forward.
Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia, said questions of Kane’s legal authority must be resolved by the state Supreme Court.
And Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, said she saw no evidence that Kane’s suspended law license poses harm to the Office of Attorney General that it is unable to overcome. She said considering Kane’s removal would be expensive and politically divisive.
“Voters themselves will have the chance to decide her fate in office next year,” said Schwank.
In a written statement, the attorney general said she’ll defend her office from the Senate’s actions, which she believes are unconstitutional.
Kane plans to further investigate emails
The rest of her response to the Senate panel’s vote was something of a bombshell.
Kane previewed her plan to announce on Tuesday a special investigation into the extent of pornographic and offensive emails that have already implicated state and county prosecutors, judges, agents within the state attorney general’s office, and others.
“I will announce my selection of a team of special prosecutors to go through every public email account trafficking this filth and track down every public server over which it was circulated,” said Kane in a statement.
“At that time, I will outline the prosecutorial powers that these special prosecutors will have to identify any violations of the criminal, civil and ethics laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition, I will call upon the Department of Justice to investigate emails circulated on the public email accounts of assistant U.S. attorneys in this state.”
For the past month, Democrats have called on Kane to appoint a special prosecutor to examine the reach of emails originally unearthed by the Office of Attorney General when Kane reinvestigated the Jerry Sandusky prosecution.
But it was not immediately clear Wednesday if Kane has the power to hire special prosecutors, given her suspended law license. Last week, her top deputies said they are “still working through” whether she can hire and fire attorneys.
The scope of Kane’s planned email dragnet is also unclear.
“It sounds a little like a threat,” said Crompton.
Chuck Ardo, Kane’s office spokesman, said the review will examine governmental email addresses that have already been linked to raunchy emails found on Office of Attorney General servers.
“I can’t tell you where the investigation may lead,” said Ardo. “But I can tell you she doesn’t intend to subpoena the servers of other agencies of state government.”