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Kathleen Kane making her mark

AP
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, shown here in a file photo from July 2013, acknowledges some “bumps in the road” from legal and political challenges, but pledged to finish the remaining two years of her term as Pennsylvania’s top legal officer. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” Kane said on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

HARRISBURG

The buzz here is about Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

In her first year in office she's shown she is decisive, unafraid of controversy and tough playing the inside game.

An even bigger splash is expected when her office releases a long-awaited report on why the Jerry Sandusky investigation under former Attorney General and now Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, took almost three years. Kane won't say when it will be issued.

Kane, a Democrat, was in office about a month when she shot down Corbett's plan to privatize the state lottery. Kane said it trampled the Legislature's power and was, in fact, illegal. The AG must approve the legality of state contracts. It's usually pro forma. This was not.

She declined to take questions after that announcement. That, on the heels of canceling a Pennsylvania Press Club appearance last year during the campaign, led some in the media to speculate that Kane might not be a ready-for-prime-time candidate. That was, of course, wrong.

Kane appeared before a Senate committee in February to argue for more money for her office and clearly wowed members of both parties with an impressive performance.

Last month, Kane did appear before the press club. She was funny, sharp and engaging.

This month she made big news by announcing in Philadelphia, in what looked like a campaign event, that she could not ethically defend Pennsylvania's 1996 law banning gay marriage because it is unconstitutional. She would refer the case to the governor's top lawyer. Politically, the decision boosts Kane's popularity in the Southeast and hurts in Pennsyltucky, where it was viewed by many as wrong, even immoral.

Whether you agree with her position or not, it was a gutsy move, one she did not have to make. Without commenting on the law itself, I happen to think she was flat-out wrong in not defending the constitutionality of an important state statute. It's something the attorney general should do. Kane, in effect, was deciding on her own the law was unconstitutional.

Within days came the stunning story in The Philadelphia Inquirer about behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Kane to oust Barry Feudale as the statewide grand jury judge. Feudale oversaw the grand juries in legislative scandals investigated by Corbett, the Bonusgate case against House Democrats and the Computergate case against House Republicans. Two former House speakers, Bill DeWeese and John Perzel, were among those convicted and sentenced to prison. Feudale also presided over grand jury matters in the Sandusky child sexual abuse case.

Kane got the Supreme Court to remove Feudale, The Inquirer reported. He had sent some troubling emails criticizing former Attorney General Linda Kelly and Kane, suggesting the latter's investigation of the Sandusky investigation is patently political. Didn't Feudale learn from Bonusgate that emails are permanent and sensitive conversations are better in person?

The power play by Kane apparently had more to do with the Penn State investigation, handled by Corbett's former top prosecutors, than Feudale, per se. Just how the move affects events remains unclear.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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