Metcalfe resolution to impeach Attorney General Kane gets hearing Tuesday
HARRISBURG — The House State Government Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday on an impeachment resolution by Chairman Daryl Metcalfe against Attorney General Kathleen Kane for declining to prosecute lawmakers who took cash from an undercover agent, and for not defending the state's gay marriage ban.
Rep. Metcalfe calls it “misbehavior” in office by the state's first elected Democratic attorney general. He did not invite Kane to testify.
Kane's spokesman, J.J. Abbott, declined to comment.
A Cranberry Republican, Metcalfe filed the resolution in October after Kane refused to defend the state in a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to overturn the gay marriage ban. It's her “mandatory duty” to defend the constitutionality of state laws, the resolution said.
Metcalfe said on Wednesday the non-voting hearing will also examine Kane's decision last year to shut down a legislative sting case in which four Philadelphia Democrats were recorded accepting cash from a former lobbyist working undercover for the Attorney General's Office.
Kane has said the case was legally flawed and noted three of her predecessors did not charge the lawmakers and an ex-traffic court judge, who accepted an expensive bracelet. The case was “dormant” when she took office in January 2013, she has said.
Depending how the hearing goes, Metcalfe said he may schedule a committee vote on impeachment. A resolution approved by the committee would move to the full House. Though Republicans control the House and Senate, where any impeachment trial would take place, political analysts see little chance the resolution will move forward.
“I don't see it gaining any traction,” said Jeffrey Weber, chairman of the political science department at East Stroudsburg University. “I don't see where Republican leadership would be eager to move this forward,” given a tight budget and governor's race.
Other experts said the described offenses don't rise to the level of impeachment.
No statewide row officer has been impeached in recent Pennsylvania history. In 1994, former Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen was impeached for misconduct.
Kane last year said citizens should be “revolted” that Metcalfe would play political games and seek media attention. She said Metcalfe didn't care about “facts or the law.”
“When he purports to know what actions I have taken, he is wrong,” she said at the time. “When he pretends to know the rules governing ethical conduct for attorneys, he is terribly wrong.”
She referred the gay marriage case to the Office of General Counsel under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, saying she could not ethically defend a law she believes is unconstitutional. Metcalfe contended Kane was “usurping the courts.”
Corbett, who became governor in January 2011, declined comment on the impeachment resolution and the sting case, a spokesman said.
Metcalfe said people with whom he speaks across the state “are revolted by her actions and behavior in office.” He said the hearing would examine the 19.9 percent raise given to Kane's twin sister last year to head a child protection unit.
Her sister, Ellen Granahan, worked for the office before Kane's election. First Deputy Adrian King, not Kane, decided to give Granahan more money, a spokesman has said. Metcalfe plans to amend a resolution by ranking Democrat Mark Cohen of Philadelphia that praises Kane for her “professionalism and focus in performance of her duties.”
The House Ethics Committee is believed to be investigating the lawmakers who took cash. Reps. Ron Waters, Michelle Brownlee, Louise Bishop and Vanessa Brown all have declined tocomment.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.