We’re now beyond pornographic videos and misogynistic humor. Pennsylvania’s “porngate” scandal now has live-action offenses.
According to Wendy Ruderman of the Philadelphia Daily News, the best-known prosecutor implicated in the scandal so far told a roomful of people in 2009 that the financial and political abuses of the “bonusgate” scandal in the state Legislature had at least bought taxpayers “a great set of tits.”
According to the story, former State House Speaker Bill DeWeese attributed those comments to prosecutor Frank Fina, when he’d asked DeWeese if he knew that an illegal bonus to a government employee had been used for breast enhancement surgery.
There’s more, which you can read here.
Fina, you may recall, was already associated with offensive email and required to attend sensitivity training by his current employer, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. Fina didn’t respond to Ruderman for her story and hasn’t returned my messages either.
But this is going to be hard to ignore.
When Mayor-elect Jim Kenney was asked about Fina and two others in the DA’s office who’d been involved in the emails, he said he wasn’t going to tell the DA, an independently elected official what to do.
But, he said, “I think it’s increasingly difficult for those individuals, based on the information that is out there, to do anything productive when it comes to prosecuting people or representing people.”
It’s fair to note that DeWeese is hardly an unbiased source on Fina, who sent him to jail on corruption charges. But DeWeese isn’t the only source quoted, and if there’s another side to the story, Fina better get it out quick.
Kane the savior?
The other interesting phenomenon of the week is watching Attorney General Kathleen Kane taking the mantle of feminist crusader against sexism, racism and homophobia.
Tuesday, she appointed a special prosecutor from Maryland to review tens of thousands of emails exchanged by state officials and pursue any criminal or ethical infractions they reveal.
Much of the material we’ve seen from the emails so far is offensive and troubling, and it’s worth looking into both their content and the relationships they suggest among players in the legal system.
But it’s worth remembering that these emails were discovered in the review Kane ordered of the Sandusky child sex abuse investigation, which was completed in June of 2014. So Kane knew of this stuff at least a year and a half ago.
Did she name a special prosecutor then? No.
Did she have her staff start reviewing them for crimes to prosecute? Not that we know of.
According to a lawsuit filed by Fina and four others against Kane, members of her staff contacted reporters in the summer of 2014 to alert them to the existence of the emails and suggest they seek them with right-to-know requests.
The suit says the chief operating officer of Kane’s office told a colleague of Fina’s that there were pornographic emails around, and that a lot of people were going to be hurt if “Fina does not back off.” (Fina had initiated the investigation into the leak of grand jury material that eventually led to Kane’s indictment.)
Starting last fall, Kane began releasing emails selectively in ways that suggested political motives.
When the Supreme Court voted to suspend Kane’s law license this fall, she sent a batch of 1,500 emails connected to Justice Michael Eakin to the Judicial Conduct Board.
There’s also the fact that some who traded pornographic email still have jobs in Kane’s office, and her chief of staff, Jonathan Duecker, has been accused of unwanted sexual advances by two women in the office.
Kane’s spokesman says she’s evaluated these cases individually and made personnel decisions based on the facts, and it’s fair to note that the allegations in Fina’s suit hardly come from a neutral source.
But it’s hard to see her as the relentless fighter for the rights of oppressed people she presented herself as yesterday, though she did come with some great lines.
My favorite: “No woman should go to work and be subjected to consistent treatment of disgusting indignity by woman haters, because they were born with one less body part, which, the last I heard, does not contain any extra brain cells.”
The tangling continues
The evening after Kane’s news conference, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow did a short piece on the saga, in which she spoke of the offensive emails and noted Kane said she was the victim of an old boys network out to get her.
Maddow then made a glaring error, saying Kane was under indictment for releasing material related to the pornographic and racist emails.
I emailed the show to say the indictment was about her alleged leak of grand jury materials from a 2009 investigation of potential financial improprieties by a local political figure.
I didn’t hear back.
The truth is that the Kane story is so dense and complicated that very few people have the patience to wade through it all. Which means there’s a ready opportunity for Kane, or potentially others in the cast, to reinvent themselves as the plot develops.
Can’t wait for the next season.