Three rings are hardly enough to contain the Pa. political circus


The great columnist Steve Lopez used to call local politics the Big Top.

Lopez long ago left Philly for the Left Coast, but the circus he so caustically loved remains very much in town.

Last week, The Inquirer’s front page blared forth a scandalous tale in a headline size that in my days there would have been reserved only for the second coming of the Almighty.

The paper reported that a bribery sting operation that had allegedly snared four Democratic state lawmakers got shut down by a new state attorney general. Our newish AG, Kathleen Kane, is also a Democrat.

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Kane, the newspaper said, felt the sting was sloppily handled and smacked of racist targeting, since all the alleged bribe-takers were black.

Kane has lashed back, hiring uber-lawyer Richard Sprague to threaten to sue the paper, or at least someone the paper quoted, for defamation. Sprague is an ageless bulldog who has been suing The Inquirer, sometimes lucratively, since the disco era.

Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow, who’s left the paper and returned more often than the swallows to Capistrano, defends his paper’s reporting as “meticulous.”  

The details of this state probe are so crazy that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Lopez has boarded a plane to Philly just so he could write about them.

A pretty pointless bribe

State investigators supposedly recruited as their phony bag man one of the dubious money men who populate the trenches of city politics; the guy, Tyron Ali, was looking to elude a rap in another case, the paper reported.

At the instigation of the former attorney general’s team, Ali reportedly offered envelopes of cash, jewelry and other inducements to various lawmakers and judges. At one juncture, he supposedly offered cash to city legislators to get them to vote no on the infamous voter ID law – a law already despised by all city Democrats.

Just a little memo to anyone planning to bribe, or pretend to bribe, a lawmaker: Don’t offer them dough to cast a vote they were 100 percent going to make anyway. Bribe them to vote against their conscience (should they be able to find it, that is).

In another wonderful twist, the paper reported that one state lawmaker who supposedly rejected a bribe is now bragging on his integrity. But based on what he told the paper, it never dawned on this lawmaker, state Rep. Angel Cruz, that maybe he should report the alleged bribe attempt to law enforcement. Hmmmm.

What a city. What a state. What a great place to be a muckraking journalist.

Less so, a taxpayer.

Note from an abashed blogger:  In the audio version of this essay, in the recording studio my tongue/brain for some unknown reason inserted the word “Philly” in front of “Democrat” when describing Kathleen Kane.  This was an odd error for someone who knows Kane was born in Scranton and served as Lackawanna County assistant district attorney. I think I was trying on the fly to come up with some way to say she has ties to the Philadelphia party establishment, but certainly came up with the wrong way. This error aired once on WHYY-FM before being corrected.  My apologies for the sloppiness.

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