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The 'X' factor in Corbett's re-election

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, Jan. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

HARRISBURG

Capitol insiders call it the “investigation of the investigation.” The investigator is Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Did Tom Corbett, a Republican, the former attorney general and current governor, slow-walk his probe of child molester and ex-Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky to help win the 2010 gubernatorial election?

Why would busting a guy who molested young boys create a political problem? It prompted a chain reaction that included the abrupt firing of legendary head coach Joe Paterno by the Penn State Board of Trustees, a decision in which Corbett participated, and raucous protests on campus. Penn State President Graham Spanier and two administrators were sacked, accused of a cover-up, and still face criminal charges. Paterno died of cancer. The football team received severe sanctions from the NCAA.

Happy Valley has been anything but.

Kane, a former assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County, tapped into public anger over what seemed like an inordinate amount of time to lock up Sandusky. The investigation took nearly three years. Child molesters in schools and the workplace are sometimes scooped up the day after an allegation is made.

Corbett said the investigation had to be thorough. Testimony from multiple victims was needed, he said. There was a cover-up, a university-commissioned report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh would later allege.

Despite the fact Sandusky is in prison for the rest of his life, Corbett was hurt by public perceptions of how the probe was handled. It helped Kane become the first woman and first Democrat elected attorney general.

The investigation she promised during the campaign is underway now; an academic who is also a former federal prosecutor is conducting it. The probe will be done when it's done, Kane's spokesman Joe Peters says.

Ironically, Corbett will be able to say, “What took so long?”

The Kane report is the “X” factor in Corbett's re-election campaign this year. If it hammers Corbett, which is likely, Kane will be accused of saving it for an election year.

Wrapping up the probe by the end of 2013 would have been better. There is a window, now through February and March, when release of the report would seem more distant from the May 20 primary. April or May, however, would reek of politics. In June, Kane's report, if explosive, could blow up budget negotiations. In July and August, no one would pay attention; people head to the shore.

Releasing her findings from Labor Day through the Nov. 4 election would look like Kane is doing a number on Corbett.

Maybe it will validate his probe? There's not much chance.

Here's a novel idea: Kane could publicly announce the report won't be released until Nov. 5 regardless of when it's completed. But there would be enormous pushback from the Democrat running against Corbett and Democrat donors.

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

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