She probably won’t hold any public office in a year or so, but you if look at the conflict and wreckage she’s already caused, it’s hard not to peg Attorney General Kathleen Kane as one of Pennsylvania’s most influential political figures of the decade.
Consider what we’re in for in the coming months:
• Pennsylvania Supreme Court Michael Eakin faces a public trial in which the evidence against him includes “a video clip of a man farting in his car after he leaves his girlfriend’s apartment.”
That should do a lot for the reputation of the state’s judiciary. Eakin faces sanctions up to removal from office for trading offensive email. The “porngate” saga was already instrumental in forcing the resignation of another justice, Seamus McCaffery.
• The contractor convicted in the 2013 Center City building collapse will try to have his conviction overturned because, he argues, emails from the porngate scandal show prosecutors against him were racially biased.
• Lawyers for state Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, accused of taking cash from an informant in a government sting operation, will raise the same issue in her case.
• In January, the state Senate will hold a hearing on whether Kane should be removed from office. That should be quite a spectacle.
• And, at some point, Kane herself will go to trial on felony charges that she leaked secret investigative material and lied about it under oath.
How did we get here?
Pundits predicted Kane would set the world on fire when she won election in 2012 as the first woman and first Democrat to hold the attorney general’s office. She’s started some fires all right, and many are still burning.
Kane’s fury at an embarrassing Inquirer story in the spring of 2014 spurred her to a criminal leak of grand jury material, prosecutors say, putting her career in serious jeopardy.
After she was under investigation for the alleged leak, Kane began to release some of the offensive email discovered in her review of the Penn State child sex-abuse investigation. That led to the growing conflagration now generally known as porngate.
The legal and political battles unleashed by all this will long and ugly, and where they take us no one can predict.
I’d like to think the exposure of all the odious material that was pulsing through the emails of judges and prosecutors for years might lead to some reform in the state’s justice system.
But given the lack of lasting reform that followed the other Harrisburg scandals – the legislative pay grab, the “bonusgate” and “computergate” prosecutions – it’s hard to be optimistic.
One thing’s for sure: We’ll remember Kathleen Kane’s name a long time.